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Major the Hon. F. L. L. COLBORNE 






S 1 iOS. >> 






I HAVE written this simple narrative in the 
belief that the advance and return of four 
regiments of infantry through a hundred 
miles of cataracts and rapids in an enemy's 
country deserve, as a military operation, 
some permanent record, and because death 
has removed the only other officers pos- 
sessing sufficient knowledge of all details 
to write that record with accuracy. 

It would have been a pleasure to me to 
take this opportunity of praising those in- 
dividuals to whom, in my opinion, such suc- 
cess as the Column attained is chiefly due ; 



but my position demands so strict a neu- 
trality that I have thought it right to avoid 
all words of praise, lest in any case their 
accidental omission might appear to impute 
the semblance of blame. 


London, September 1885. 








ENEMY, . . . . . .88 



IX. KIRBEKAN — THE FIGHT, . . . . I52 

X. THE SHUKOOK PASS, . . . . I72 


GAMR'S PROPERTY, . . -197 



MURDER, ..... 224 









HUELLA, . . . . . .At end 




On the morninef of the 24th December 24tb Dec. 

^ ^ ^ 1884. 

1884, I arrived at Korti, Lord Wolseley's 
headquarters — having up to that time been 
engaged as Deputy Adjutant and Quarter- 
master General under General Sir Red vers 
Buller, the chief of the staff, in the organ- 
isation of the Nile Expedition. The exact 
nature of Lord Wolseley s plans was not 
at that time known to me ; but I knew that 
his original idea of moving the whole force 

by river to Berber and thence to Khartoum 



had necessarily to be abandoned, and that, 
if Gordon were to be rescued within the 
period we had reason to hope he could 
hold out for, troops must be sent across 
the desert. That this was a more or less 
desperate venture, none of us could for 
a moment doubt; but it had to be made, 
if Gordon were to be saved ; and in 
the four camel regiments, camel battery, 
camel - bearer company, camel field - hos- 
pital, and camel transport - companies, a 
force had been specially organised for this 
effort. It was not, however, till after 
General BuUer's arrival at Korti, that the 
exact nature of Lord Wolseley s plan was 
made known to me, and the details of the 
scheme had then to be worked out. 

The plan, in its bare outline, was as 
follows : The greater portion of the mount- 
ed troops, under Sir Herbert Stewart, was 
to advance across the desert from Korti to 
Metemmeh, establishing fortified posts at the 
wells along the route. Sir Charles Wilson 
was then, with a small escort of infantry, to 


proceed in Gordon's steamers to Khartoum, 
and, having communicated with Gordon, to 
return to Metemmeh. Upon his report 
the future conduct of the desert column 
would be framed. I do not know what 
instructions Sir Herbert Stewart may have 
received; but I do know that if Stewart 
had not been killed, and if Wilson had 
brought back word that Gordon was hold- 
ing out, but in sore need, Stewart and the 
troops under him were capable of forcing 
their way to Gordon's assistance through 
any number of the enemy. And I know 
that if Wilson's report as to Gordon's 
power of holding out had been favourable, 
Lord Wolseley himself had intended to 
join Stewart, taking with him the re- 
mainder of the mounted troops and a 
force of infantry. 

Simultaneously with the advance of the 
desert column under Stewart, a force 
was to be sent by river under command 
of General Earle to punish the murderers 
of Colonel Stewart and of the Consuls, and 



to advance by Berber to co-operate with 
Stewart's force in an attack on the Mahdi 
before Khartoum, under Lord Wolseley's 
personal command. 

I was informed that Lord Wolseley had 
selected me to be second in command of 
this column and chief staff-officer to Major- 
QsthDec. General Earle ; and on Christmas Day 
General Duller set me free from my work 
in his office — bringing in Colonel Wolse- 
ley, A.A.G., to replace me — and told me 
to devote my whole time to organising 
General Earle's column, as Lord Wolseley 
wanted me to proceed at the earliest pos- 
sible date with a battalion of infantry and 
a few cavalry to establish an advanced 
post at Hamdab, above the portion of 
river marked in the map as the Geren- 
did cataract, and near the point (Dugiyet) 
where the desert road from Berber strikes 
the river. General Earle was at this time 
at Dongola. 

I had some few details to discuss with 
Herbert Stewart. The cavalry of the ex- 


peditiori — five troops — was to be evenly 
divided between us ; and the Royal Engin- 
eers, who had reached Korti in boats, were, 
with their equipment, to be divided into two 
portions — one to accompany the desert and 
one the river column. We had no difficulty 
in settling matters amicably. 

The first battalion of the South Stafford- 
shire Regiment — the battalion which had first 
ascended the river in whalers — was to lead 
the advance up the river. I had accom- 
panied them on their start from Gemai 
dockyard, above the second cataract, to 
Sarras ; and had congratulated Colonel Eyre 
upon the strange chance which had given 
him, as the boat at the head of his column, 
that bearing the number 38, the old number 
of his regiment ; and knowing what a keen 
soldier he was, I was glad to have him with 
me now.^ 

In making the preparations for a start, it 

^ Another curious coincidence was the fact that the first boat 
taken up through the great gate of the second cataract, under 
the superintendence of Colonel Butler, bore the number 69 — the 
number of his old regiment, of whose "Records" he is the historian. 


was found that the original liberal allowance 
of boat-gear with which the troops had start- 
ed had been sadly reduced by the journey up 
the river, and that we could not count upon 
more than eight oars and two poles per 
boat. And as the supplies of food brought 
up by the Staffords were being taken in great 
quantities for the desert column, we had 
to content ourselves with thirty days* boat 
rations for the present. In a memo, written 
to Colonel Eyre on the 26th, authorising 
an issue of soap, I said : -* In this and every 
similar issue, you must impress upon your 
men the necessity of economy. They have 
many weeks, probably some months, of work 
yet before them, and all supplies are limited 
in quantity." 

At this time Colonel Colvile was at Mer- 
awi, or rather at Abu Dom, which is to 
Merawi what Southwark is to London. 
With him was the Vakeel of the Mudirieh 
of Dongola, Gaudet Bey, with some 400 of 
the Mudir's troops. The Mudir was sup- 
posed to be collecting supplies for us ; and 


I entered into telegraphic correspondence 
with Colonel Colvile, telling him the quan- 
tities of barley, dourra, dourra - stalk, and 
firewood we required to be ready for us 
on our arrival. 

On Sunday, the 28th December, at 2 p.m., 28th Dec. 
the Staffords, 545 of all ranks, entered their 
fifty boats. I had issued orders previously 
to the following effect : ** From the time 
of leaving Korti, the company will be the 
unit by which boats will work. The utmost 
efforts must be made to keep companies 
together. In every case an officer will be 
with the last boat of the company, and it 
will be his duty to urge on, and assist 
where necessary, any boats of his company 
which may be falling behind." Working 
on this principle, the Staffords started, and 
in thirty-one minutes their last boat was 
under way. It was the first time that a 
whole battalion had moved together, and as 
it was the first forward movement beyond 
Korti, it was full of interest. Two boats, 
containing a detachment, 26th Company, 


R.E., under Captain Blackburn, left at the 
same time. 
29th Dec. Early on the 29th half a troop of 19th 
Hussars, under Captain Aylmer, twenty-six 
of all ranks, and thirty horses, marched to 
overtake the Stafifords, taking with them the 
horses and camels of my own party ; and 
in the afternoon I started in the Monarch 
steam-launch with Major Slade, D.A.A.G., 
Intelligence Department; Captain Beau- 
mont, K.R.R., officer for signalling; and 
D.A.C.G. Boyd, of the Commissariat. 

Before starting I said good-bye to two 
old friends whom I was never destined to 
see again, Herbert Stewart and St Leger 
Herbert. We had all served together in 
South Africa, and at the storming of Seku- 
kuni's fighting koppie. We had lived 
together and travelled together for many a 
weary league. Stewart had succeeded me 
as military secretary to Lord Wolseley when 
I went to join the Viceroy's staff in India. 
St Leger Herbert had been my companion 
on the staff in Cyprus as well. I do not 


know which was the keener soldier of the 
two. If ever a man loved fighting, it was 
St Leger Herbert; and Stewart's and my 
last words together were the mutually ex- 
pressed hope that each of us would meet 
the enemy in force, and make an end of it 
in one good fight. 

At 5 P.M. we overtook the Staffords and 
Hussars about twenty miles from Korti, and 
bivouacked for the night on the left bank 
at the village of Kureir, opposite Hanneck. 

The following morning, 30th, we advanced 30th Dec. 
to Abu Dom. Having selected a site for our 
bivouac, about half a mile above a strong 
fort that had been built by native labourers 
on the designs of the Vakeel, and below 
which the native troops were hutted, I vis- 
ited Colonel Colvile, who was living in a 
grass hut on the river-bank close to the 
landing-place, surrounded by groaning camels 
and by natives anxious to bargain, or clam- 
ouring for payment for supplies or camels 
purchased for the desert column. 

I now held an interview in Colonel Col- 


vile's hut with the Vakeel, who was living 
on board a dahabeeyah close by, at which in- 
terview the Turkish major commanding the 
troops assisted. I told them our wants in 
the matter of supplies. Many difficulties 
were made, but ultimately all we wanted 
was promised, both in cattle, dourra, dourra- 
stalk, wood, and wheat, The exceptions 
were barley and flour — the Vakeel assur- 
ing me that the first was not in existence, 
and the latter not to be obtained in any 
large quantities, owing to the scarcity of 
grindstones. This we found to be true : 
there were only two large grindstones, of 
the kind which are turned one upon the 
other, in all the district ; the flour for the 
use of each family being made by the 
women of the family, by pounding or rub- 
bing with a stone a small handful at a time 
of wheat or dourra placed in a hollowed- 
out stone. The result of the interview, in 
spite of all promises, left on my mind the 
conviction that Gaudet Bey and the Major 
meant to be obstructive, and had no inten- 


tion of doing for us any more than they 
could help ; and I gave the Vakeel to under- 
stand that we must have what we wanted, 
and that the military commander must now 
reign supreme. 

Colvile, Slade, and I then proceeded up 
the river in the picket-boat, with a view to 
selecting a camping-ground at Belal ; but, 
finding we should not have time to get so 
far, we returned to Abu Dom. Immediately 
on our return we were informed that a mes- 
senger from Gordon had arrived, and that 
the Vakeel had telegraphed the fact to the 
Mudir. As this was in direct opposition 
to the instructions given by me in the morn- 
ing, that no telegrams were to be sent un- 
less first submitted to Colonel Colvile, I 
sent for the Vakeel ; and on my saying I 
must report him to Lord Wolseley, he re- 
plied that he did not care — he was not Lord 
Wolseley s Vakeel. As I found that he 
had not collected the supplies which he had 
promised to collect on the opposite bank 
for our troops, and had replied, when asked 


about it, that he had not time to discuss the 
matter, I telegraphed to General Duller that 
I thought we should do better to send the 
Vakeel away, and appoint the Kasheef of 
Belal, Mohammed Effendi Wad Kenaish, to 
act in his place. The same night I received 
a telegram from General Duller saying that 
a very civil message had been sent to the 
Vakeel requesting him to come to Korti, 
and one from Sir C. Wilson, asking me to 
tell the Vakeel that Lord Wolseley wished 
to consult him on matters of importance, 
and begged he would go there by the 
picket-boat next day. 

I then saw the messenger from Gordon. 
He was a man who had been sent by 
Colvile with a letter from Lord Wolseley; 
and he brought back that now historical 
letter of three words, " Khartoum all right, 
14th December, C. G. Gordon.'* He told 
me that when he left K hartoum all was well 
there, and that provisions were sufficient, 
though not plentiful. On his way back he 
had remained six days in the Mahdi's camp. 


Sickness was prevalent among the enemy, 
but there was no lack of food. He told me 
that Hashm el Moos was at Wady Bishara 
on the 2 1 St December with three steamers, 
having loaded two steamers with provisions 
and sent them to Khartoum. He then added 
in great secrecy that Gordon had confided 
to him a message that we were to come 
quickly, — not to divide our force or leave 
Berber behind, but to take Berber and come 
by the right bank. 

That night of bivouac was rendered 
hideous by the Mudir's troops. They had 
a semicircle of sentries from the fort to 
the river enclosing their huts and Colvile s 
camels ; and they shouted the equivalent of 
" alFs well " without cessation. Each sentry 
had a number, and as soon as No. i had 
called out "No. i, all's well," No. 2 
shouted " No. 2, all's well," and so on till 
the last number was reached, when No. i 
began again. This continued through the 
whole night. Colvile was used to it, and 
did not mind. 


31st Dec. On the morning of the 31st the Vakeel 
and Gordon's messenger went ofif together 
to Korti in the Monarch picket -boat, 
Lieutenant Tyler, R.N., who was in charge, 
having great difficulty in carrying out his 
orders to keep them apart. I informed 
General Duller that I had appointed 
Mohammed Wad Kenaish to act in the 
Vakeel's place, instead of the major whom 
the Vakeel had named ; and was instructed 
in reply that I should have accepted the 
deputy appointed by the Vakeel, and that 
my action amounted to taking the govern- 
ment of the country into our hands, which 
was not desirable. It was proposed to 
admonish the Vakeel seriously, and send 
him back. I urged by telegraph his not 
being sent back ; but was informed that it 
would not do to start in one portion of the 
Mudirieh a policy different from that prevail- 
ing elsewhere. I vainly represented that 
part of this portion of the Mudirieh was in 
rebellion, and taxes could not be collected ; 
that the Vakeel confessed himself unable to 


punish the persons who cut the telegraph; 
that, according to the Vakeel, El Zain, with 
some of the Mahdi's dervishes, was at 
Hamdab, and that these were reasons why 
the military authority should be paramount 
here. I only found that I was uselessly 
kicking against the pricks. Lord Wolseley 
did not consider any of my reasons sufficient, 
and I was told the Vakeel would be sent 
back with General Earle.^ 

Meanwhile, throughout the day the Staf- 
fords with their boats had been employed 
in bringing over to the left bank the sup- 
plies collected in the Shoona or Gov- 
ernment store on the right bank. Had 
. I passed on, leaving the supplies in the 
Shoona, the bringing them over to the left 
bank might have been indefinitely post- 
poned ; and in the present temper of the 
Mudir's authorities, I did not feel sure 
the supplies would ever reach us. I con- 
sidered it important to show that we meant 

^ The Vakeel afterwards told Colonel Colvile and myself that 
he was at this time acting under orders from the Mudir of 
Dongola to give us as little help as possible. 



to have what we wanted, and were cap- 
able of helping ourselves, if need be; 
and this action had an undoubtedly good 

In the course of the day I presented Said 
Hassan, the Sheikh of Amri Island and 
King of Zowarah, with a robe of honour in 
Lord Wolseley s name. This monarch had 
joined the Shagiyeh in rebellion against the 
Egyptians in the previous summer, and had 
been badly wounded in the arm when fight- 
ing against the Mudir s troops at Korti. 
He had since thought better of it; and 
when, shortly before, Suleiman Wad Gamr 
had sent to his island to bring him to Birti, 
he had, according to his own story, escaped 
and fled to us. This noble conduct I had 
been instructed to reward in what was 
certainly a conspicuous manner; for when 
the old gentleman was clothed in a scarlet 
cloth robe, a crimson fez, a sword very much 
gilt with sundry gorgeous tassels, and a pair 
of red slippers, he was as like a monkey on 
a barrel-organ as anything I ever saw. But 


he was a king, and the act I had been per- 
forming was one with which every reader of 
the Scriptures is familiar. King Said's first 
act was to beg for money for himself and his 
ragged retinue, and to try to drive as hard 
a bargain with me as he could. I promised 
him finally a pound a-day for himself and 
his followers, provided he would help us 
with labour and supplies when we reached 
his country — payment to be contingent on 
results. He never was of the slightest use 
to us; and as, when we returned to Abu 
Dom, he did not hesitate to return among 
the rebels, I have little doubt that he had 
only followed the traditionary policy of the 
Soudanese sheikhs, to have some of a fam- 
ily on each side in a war, so that, which- 
ever side wins, there may be some in power 
to intercede for those on the beaten side. 
In fact, so well is this policy recognised 
among them, that the members of the 
family who have been on the wrong side 
are thought none the worse of for their 

apparent treason. 



About seven o'clock in the evening, tele- 
graphic communication with Korti was in- 
terrupted. I did not learn this till nearly 
nine, and then at once sent out an officer 
of Engineers with a few Hussars and a 
native linesman to repair the line. They re- 
turned about 2.30 A.M., having found it cut 
about eight miles from our camp, and traces 
of camels leading into the desert. They 
had repaired the line, 
istjan. On New Year's Day the Staffords con- 

tinued and completed the work of bringing 
over the supplies from the Shoona ; and I 
rode with Major Slade and Captain Beau- 
mont about eight miles, to Belal, at the foot 
of the Gerendid cataract, and selected a 
bivouac. On the way we passed close to 
a remarkable cluster of pyramids, many 
of which have crumbled away into gravel 
mounds, a few retaining their pyramidal 
form. Their bases are buried, but not 
deep, in the sand, and the highest stands 
about sixty feet above the present level. 
They stand in irregular rows. They are 



made of blocks of pudding-stone, of which 
there is a laige quantity in the neighbour- 
hood, faced with one layer of blocks of 
sandstone. No native has the vaguest idea 
of their age. They are undoubtedly tombs ; 
their neighbourhood has been used as a 
graveyard from time inmiemorial, and is 
so now. I inquired at Belal if any curios- 
ities, scaraba&i, clay figures, or antiquities of 
any sort were ever found there, offering to 
purchase them at a good price; but was 
assured nothing had ever been found. On 
the opposite bank of the river, about equally 
distant from its present bed, stands another 
cluster of similar pyramids near the hill 
known as Jebel Barkal, in which a temple 
is hewn. 

On New Year's night we dined outside 
Colonel Colvile's hut In addition to the 
menu furnished by our rations, we had eggs 
and chickens, pumpkin, and a plum-pudding, 
a most delicious melon, a bottle of cham- 
pagne, and a tot of whisky. The English 
mail arrived bringing us letters and Christ- 



mas cards, and we sat up till late, speculat- 
ing on what the year would bring forth. 
Then saying good-bye to Colvile, we of the 
river column sought our beds on the soft, 
clean, yellow sand by the side of the sleep- 
ing troops. 




On the morning of the 2d, at six o'clock, 2djan. 
the Staffords moved off in their boats, the 
Hussars covering the advance along the 
bank. They arrived at Belal in the after- 
noon. Slade, with an escort, rode over to 
Hamdab to select a camping-ground for our 
concentration; the rest of our party re- 
mained at Belal. The Kasheef, Mohammed 
Wad Kenaish, brought us excellent wheaten 
cakes, honey, and melons, with milk both 
sweet and sour, in which latter condition 
only the natives seem to drink it. The 
people brought dates and milk and bread 
for sale to the troops. 

Slade received information that there 


were about 600 rebels at Birti, under 
Moussa, the son of Abu Hegel, sheikh of 
the Robatab tribe. Moussa, it was reported, 
had been made an Emir by the Mahdi, and 
was anxious to advance towards Hamdab. 
Suleiman Wad Gamr, sheikh of the Mon- 
assir tribe, was said to have objected to this 
advance, and to have left Birti on the 29th 
December with the intention of proceeding to 
Berber, and reporting the matter to Moham- 
med el Kheir, the Mahdi's Emir of Berber. 

We also learnt the particulars of a raid 
which had been made much nearer to us on 
the last day of the year, and of which we 
had received information at Abu Dom. El 
Zain, a well known robber chief, with forty 
followers, had raided from the wells of El 
Koua, thirty miles out on the road from 
Dugiyet to Berber, and had captured nearly 
200 camels which were grazing in the desert 
about two hours* march from the river. A 
large number of these camels belonged to 
the Kasheef of Belal. 

We were now, it appeared, really begin- 


ning to approach a hostile country. Thirty 
miles in front of us was a force of Mon- 
assir and Robatab ready to fight, under a 
commander who wanted to lead them on ; 
and thirty miles on our right flank was a 
famous raider with a number of followers 
more bold than numerous. We had been 
so long sitting still without a prospect of a 
fight, that we had begun almost to disbelieve 
in the possibility of one ; but our prospects 
were apparently brightening. 

We had a pleasant enough spot for our 
bivouac, with good anchorage, and a grove 
of palm-trees close by. But we noticed 
that the desert had now become rocky, and 
the rocks came close down to the river. 
The fine open sandy plain, so favourable 
for the development of modern infantry 
fire, so fatal to the Arab rush, had disap- 
peared. We had entered into the region of 
rocks and cataracts, that we were to carry 
with us almost to the furthest limits of 


the country of the Monassir. 

On the 3d we again advanced, our lead- adjan. 


ing boats reaching their camping-ground at 
Hamdab at one o'clock, and the last boat 
closing up to them by two ; and this in spite 
of Omar, the sheikh of Duaim, whom we had 
chartered as a pilot, running Colonel Eyre's 
boat on a rock. We found no cataract, 
only a very rapid stream between rocks, 
against which the men were able to row. 
And so the Gerendid cataract,^ of which we 
had a picture in the Intelligence Depart- 
ment publications, did not exist ; and we 
began to congratulate ourselves on the 
prospect of an easy ascent to Berber. 

News reached us that a party of fifty 
dervishes (the generic name for the Mahdi's 
followers, dressed in his patchwork uniform) 
was on the right bank opposite Ooli Is- 
land ; and that El Zain at El Koua had been 
reinforced by forty men from Berber. We 
were now beyond Dugiyet, and the point, 
marked by a solitary dom-palm, where the 
chief desert -track from Berber strikes the 

^ No native of the district had ever heard this name. The 
local name is the rapids of Hajar Oolad Gurbar. 


Nile. Under these circumstances the wells 
of El Koua and Bir Sani became an im- 
portant point for our consideration, as the 
raid made towards the river might at any 
time be repeated, and our convoys from 
Abu Dom, of which the first arrived to-day, 
might be molested. But my handful of 
cavalry was too small to attempt any coun- 
terstroke in that direction, and I tele- 
graphed to Korti asking for more cavalry, 
and expressing the desire that the Mudir's 
troops, whom I had been directed not to 
move, should cross the river, and encamp 
on the opposite bank to us, so as to prevent 
small parties of dervishes, such as we were 
informed were near Ooli Island, firing 
across the river into our camp at night. 

Not liking the camp selected by Slade, 4th Jan. 
I rode out on the morning of the 4th and 
chose another site about a mile farther 
up stream, with good anchorage, and an 
excellent position for a small defensive 
work, on the site of an old mud fort placed 
on a rocky spur jutting out into the Nile, 


and commanding the river and the camp. 
We then rode on to Jebel Kulgeili, about 
five miles to the front, and ascended the 
mountain. From it we could see for many 
miles in every direction; but only about 
three miles of actual river were visible 
beyond the mountain, as the islands over- 
lap and close the view near Ooli Island. 
We could see enough, however, to assure 
us that there was nothing to stop the boats* 
progress from Hamdab to Ooli. 

As far as Belal we had been travelling 
through a rich country with much cultiva- 
tion ; at Belal, as already stated, the rocks 
came down to near the river, and from 
Belal to Hamdab but little cultivation ex- 
isted. Beyond Hamdab the amount of 
cultivation still further diminished, and the 
people, who up to Hamdab had been friend- 
ly, became more shy, several houses being 
deserted. But from Kulgeili to Ooli 
there was not a sign of life. One or two 
strips of neglected cultivation existed, but 
every hovel was deserted. Hamdab marked 


the limits of territory within which the 
Mudir had collected taxes since the re- 
bellion began ; and those beyond that limit, 
not having paid taxes, had doubtless guilty 
consciences, and the fear bred thereof. We 
read, however, to those of them whom we 
could assemble between Belal and Kulgeili, 
Lord Wolseley's proclamation of friendli- 
ness to the Shagiyeh, and left copies of it 
with them. 

In the afternoon General Earle arrived 
with his aide-de-camp, Lieut. St Aubyn, and 
Brigade-Major, Major Boyle, and assumed 
command. He brought with him Lord Wol- 
seley's instructions, which had been shown 
to me before leaving Korti. In them he was 
informed that his force was to consist of — 

One squadron 19th Hussars; 

The Staffordshire Regiment ; 

The Royal Highlanders ; 

The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry; 

The Gordon Highlanders ; 

A battery of Egyptian Artillery ; 

The Egyptian Camel Corps ; 


Headquarters and 300 camels of the 
nth Transport Company ; 
and that in addition another regiment would 
be placed at his disposal to form posts between 
Merawi and Abu Hamed. He was to con- 
centrate at Abu Hamed, and advance thence 
as soon as he had collected a hundred days* 
supplies per man. Major Rundle, who had 
a large quantity of rations at Korosko, had 
undertaken to have a convoy of supplies at 
Abu Hamed four days after General Earle's 
arrival there. After filling up with supplies 
at Abu Hamed, General Earle was to ad- 
vance upon Berber; and having secured 
that place, to endeavour to forward as 
many supplies as possible to the force 
which would have proceeded by land to 
Khartoum. A portion of the Mudir*s 
troops was told off to accompany General 
Earle's force. He might use them as he 
thought fit, but it was suggested he should 
employ them to collect supplies in the 
Monassir country. He was to treat all 
tribes as friends (except the Monassir) if 


they would meet his advances; if not, he 
was to enforce his demands. The Mon- 
assir were only to be treated as friends if 
they would give up the murderers of Colo- 
nel Stewart and his party. He was to 
occupy Abu Hamed and Berber, and such 
other places as might be necessary for the 
safety of his line ; and to consider it of 
first importance to place 75,000 rations at 
Shendy at the disposal of the force operat- 
ing by the desert as quickly as possible. 

To the above military instructions some 
political instructions were added for Gene- 
ral Earle in his dealings with the various 
tribes. The sheikhs, he was told, might be 
informed that the English policy was, in the 
first place, to restore peace and tranquillity 
to the country, and then to establish some 
form of native government which would be 
acceptable to the people. The English 
Government did not intend to interfere 
with the property or just rights of any one. 
All persons wishing to submit, with the 
exception of the murderers of Colonel 



Stewart and his party, and their accom- 
plices, would be well received and pardoned 
if they gave in their submission at once; 
but those persisting in rebellion would re- 
ceive the punishment they deserved. 

For the better carrying out of these in- 
structions, letters in Arabic, addressed to 
the sheikhs of the various tribes, had been 
prepared ; and General Earle was in- 
structed, before entering each district, to 
send one of these letters to the sheikh or 
tribe to whom it was addressed. A special 
proclamation, offering a reward for the ap- 
prehension of Suleiman Wad Gamr and 
Fakri Wad Etman, the instigator and per- 
petrator of Stewart*s murder, was to be 
circulated only when it should be known 
that Suleiman Wad Gamr had fled. 

In the course of the afternoon a telegram 
arrived, instructing the General that he was 
not to advance beyond Hamdab until he 
could do so with his whole force. Lord 
Wolseley also wished him to avoid recon- 
naissances as much as possible, — deprecat- 


ing reconnaissances from a stationary force, 
as the reconnoitrers must in the end re- 
tire to their force, and such a retirement is 
often magnified by natives into a defeat; 
and as it was of importance to prevent any 
opening being given for such a rumour. 

On the 5th January Major Flood marched sth Jan. 
into camp with a troop and a half of Hussars, 
completing the squadron to 9 1 sabres ; and 
the troops were employed preparing the 
newly selected camp. We were now nine- 
teen miles from the telegraph station at 
Abu Dom ; but there was lying along the 
ground between us, and in the river at 
Merawi, much wire belonging to the old 
Berber line, which had crossed the desert 
from Dugiyet, and Lieutenant Stuart, R.E., 
was already at work getting poles cut and 
erected by native labour. Meanwhile we 
had established a daily camel -post with 
Abu Dom; and to-day we received by it 
the welcome news from General BuUer 
that Herbert Stewart had successfully estab- 
lished posts at Gakdul and Howeiyet, had 


found plenty of water, grass, and firewood, 
and would return with the convoy to-day. 
His expedition to Gakdul, we were told, 
had been a complete surprise. No oppo- 
sition had been offered, and he had cap- 
tured several prisoners. 
6th Jan. On the 6th, in a most unpleasant dust- 

storm, the troops moved into their new 
camp. A market was at once established ; 
and the natives brought in a fair supply 
of milk, dates, dourra-bread, and other pro- 
ducts of the country. So well satisfied 
with our treatment of them were the na- 
tives, that several of them afterwards fol- 
lowed us up the country, bringing dates to 
sell. Three of these met with their death 
at the hands of some Monassir, near Kir- 
bekan, a few days after the action there. 

The daily record from this date to the 
23d January would have but little general 
interest. The troops for the column con- 
tinued to arrive at Abu Dom and Ham- 
dab; and we were busily occupied in per- 
fecting our arrangements for the advance. 


The organisation of our force necessitated 
my making one trip to Korti, and several 
to Abu Dom ; and General Earle had to 
go once to Abu Dom to bring the Vakeel 
to book. Of that organisation I propose 
to speak in the next chapter. 

Only one or two matters of external in- 
terest occurred during this period. The 
sheikh of Ooli, or rather a younger brother 
of the sheikh, stating that the sheikh was 
lame and unable to walk, came into our 
camp and asked for the protection promised 
under Lord Wolseley's proclamation to the 
Shagiyeh. This he was promised on con- 
dition that he helped us to obtain supplies. 

At 1.45 A.M. on the 13th, a report arrived 13th jan, 
from Col vile, saying that Omar, the sheikh 
of Duaim, whom we had employed as a 
pilot for a short time, but subsequently dis- 
missed as incompetent, had met two men 
at Belal, who stated that they had accom- 
panied a force of 1000 men from Berber to 
the wells of Bak, half-way between Bir Sani 
and El Koua ; that the force was armed with 


rifles, and had a great quantity of ammu- 
nition, and that it was intended to attack 
our camp in the early morning. Cavalry 
patrols were at once sent out in the direc- 
tion of the Berber road, and other military 
precautions taken. Nothing came of it; 
and when traced to its source, the rumour 
appeared to be a concoction of Omar's own, 
based upon the fact that two men had 
arrived at Belal from Bir Sani, bringing the 
news of a reinforcement of 50 men to El 
Zain, and a report of a force of 1000 men 
having marched from Berber, under Abdul 
Majid Wad el Lekalik, to reinforce the 
enemy at Birti. 

It was, however, evident that unless 
something were done to stop El Zain, 
rumours of this sort would occur from time 
to time ; and General Earle decided to ask 
Lord Wolseley*s permission to make a raid 
upon this cluster of w^lls. The permis- 
sion being accorded, it was decided to make 
the raid shortly before our advance up the 
river, allowing only sufficient time for the 


horses to have a couple of days* rest after- 
wards. Accordingly, on the 17th January 17th jan. 
the Egyptian Camel Regiment, with twenty 
camels of the Egyptian battery, carrying 
all the available camel water-tins, were 
brought from Abu Dom to Hamdab, it 
being given out that the water-tanks were 
being brought up to be overhauled by the 
Engineers ; and orders were issued that on 
Sunday the i8th the General would inspect 
the Engineers, the Hussars, and the Camel 
Corps in fighting order, with two days* 
rations, water, &c., as if ready to march 
into action. Major Flood, 19th Hussars, 
who was to command the party, and Major 
Slade, of the Intelligence Department, were 
taken into the secret. No one else but 
General Earle and myself had an inkling 
of what was intended. 

Our information was to the effect that 
the wells of El Koua, where great numbers 
of cattle and camels of the Monassir were 
said to be, were seven hours distant (this 
time would not represent more than twenty- 


eight miles) ; that the wells of Bir Sani 
were some two hours farther on, with the 
wells of Bak intervening ; and that El Zain, 
with a party of dervishes, variously esti- 
mated at from lOO to 150, lived, with their 
flocks and herds, and the camels they had 
captured, on a hill called Jebel Katete, 
about two miles from Bir Sani, coming down 
to the wells for water. 

Major Flood's instructions were to pro- 
ceed with the Hussars (about 60 sabres) 
and Camel Corps (about 90 rifles) to the 
wells of El Koua, and, if possible, to Bak 
and Bir Sani, to surprise the Arabs, take 
them prisoners, burn their dwellings, and 
capture their camels and cattle. He was 
instructed to strike a blow at El Zain if 
possible, but not to be drawn into a serious 
engagement ; and it was left to his judgment 
whether he would proceed beyond El Koua. 
Major Slade procured a guide, and was 
placed at Major Flood's disposal. 
i8th Jan. The parade was held on Sunday at i p.m. 
The Engineers, having been inspected, were 


dismissed. The mounted troops were told 
the General would inspect them after a 
short march ; and they moved off into the 
desert, striking into a khor which led them 
by a short cut into the Berber- Dugiyet 
road, some five miles from Dugiyet The 
secret had been well kept in camp. But it 
must have got out — probably through the 
guide, who has since joined the Mahdi — for 
there on the road were the unmistakable 
traces of the recent passage of a camel 
from Dugiyet in the direction of the wells. 
Flood marched till near midnight, and then 
halted about eight miles short of El Koua. 
He started again at 4 a.m., and reached a 19th Jan. 
cultivated khor (El Koua), where he found 
traces of hasty flight, but no cattle or 
camels. The wells gave barely sufficient 
water for thirty horses; the water he had 
with him was little more than enough for 
the men. The distance he had already 
travelled he estimated at thirty-five miles. 
He pushed on three miles to the end of 
the cultivated khor^ where the rocks closed 


in and the ground became bad for cavalry ; 
and then, considering the distance and the 
scarcity of water, he considered it advisable 
not to go farther; burned some of the 
Monassir huts, carried off some grain, and 
returned the same night to Hamdab. 

The raid had not had the result hoped 
for; but it was sufficient to keep El Zain 
quiet as long as we were anywhere within 
striking distance of El Koua. 




The chief care of a General in the organ- sth to 23d 
isation of a force for active service is to ^' 
ensure to his troops a sufficient supply 
of food and ammunition. This requires 
a sufficiency of transport, which again re- 
quires food for the transport animals. It 
may be assumed, as a general rule, that 
troops start properly clothed and armed, so 
that a supply of clothing and arms is only 
required when an expedition is likely to be 

When a General has secured for his troops 
the reasonable certainty of the necessary food 
and ammunition, he is at liberty to turn his 
mind to other questions of organisation, fore- 

40 HAM DAB. 

most in importance among which is the care 
of his sick and wounded, and, in all ordinary 
expeditions, the evacuation of the sick and 
wounded from his field-hospitals to hospitals 
upon the line of communication. It may 
safely be said that these questions require 
far more time and elaboration of detail than 
the strategical and tactical questions ; and 
the system now prevailing in all European 
armies is to give to a General in command 
of an expedition a Chief of the Staff, who re- 
lieves him of this detail, and of all the minor 
details of camp routine, leaving the General 
in command free to weigh the value of the 
reports made by his intelligence department, 
and to decide by what means, strategical 
and tactical, he can obtain the greatest ad- 
vantage over his enemy. This system 
ensures to the General in command time for 
thought, relief from small worrying cares, 
and leisure to mature his plans of campaign 
and of battle. 

In the present case, the river column 
had some peculiar advantages in its favour, 


and some peculiar disadvantages to contend 
with. In the first and great matter of food 
for the troops, we were certain of its not 
failing for nearly three months. All our 
infantry leaving Korti brought one hundred 
days* food per man in their boats, — food, 
supposed to be of the best quality, specially 
prepared and packed in England. All 
other troops coming up in boats brought 
as many days* supply as they could carry, 
in addition to loads of material for their 
special services. Every effort was made 
to economise these supplies by obtaining 
cattle and native flour. Troops leaving 
Korti brought with them **way rations" 
sufficient to last to Abu Dom. There 
native bakers supplied them with bread 
baked from native flour, and fresh meat 
was killed for them. On arrival at Ham- 
dab, they found a commissariat bakery, 
which we established immediately on ar- 
rival, by building four ovens in the river 
bank, each able to turn out nearly six hun- 
dred loaves a-day ; and a cattle depot, which 

42 HAM DAB. 

was kept supplied by local purchase. We 
were thus enabled to start from Hamdab 
with our supplies of biscuit and preserved 
meat almost untouched. 

As originally intended in the orders given 
to General Earle, when he left Korti at the 
beginning of the year, we were to have a 
battalion of infantry for the special purpose 
of forming posts between Abu Dom and 
Abu Hamed, which would have greatly 
facilitated the forwarding of convoys of 
cattle after the column from Abu Dom ; 
15th jto. but on the 15th, fresh orders were received 
to the effect that it would not be possible to 
give to General Earle a fifth battalion to 
occupy posts, that the General of communi- 
cation would not establish any line of com- 
munication beyond Abu Dom, and that the 
river force was to be a flying column. We 
should therefore have to depend for food 
upon the supplies we could take with us 
from Abu Dom, upon whatever we could 
buy or capture in the country we were about 
to enter, and upon the promised convoy 


from Korosko, which was to meet us at 
Abu Hamed. 

But we had not only to consider how to 
supply the European troops with food. We 
had to supply some 200 Egyptian troops, 
and 1 50 natives, mostly Aden camel-drivers, 
and to feed about 150 horses and 530 camels. 
The Egyptian soldiers. Camel Corps, and 
Artillery, agreed without a murmur to their 
ration being confined to i lb. meat and i lb. 
flour, if they were allowed a small sum, which 
was settled at half a piastre (about ijE^^d.) 
daily, to supplement their ration by the pur- 
chase of vegetables or any native delicacy. 
The Aden camel-drivers also consented to 
forego their authorised ration of sugar, salt, 
and tea or coffee ; so that we were enabled 
to reserve all our groceries for the Euro- 
pean troops and Egyptian officers. 

The horses — Egyptian cavalry horses — 
which had been handed over to the 19th 
Hussars atWady Haifa, and the ponies of the 
staff and regimental officers, were in hard 
serviceable condition ; but to keep them in 



condition, they must not be reduced below 
their ration of lo lb. of grain daily, to be 
supplemented by such green forage as could 
be procured. And this meant 1500 lb. of 
grain daily, or five camel -loads ; for we 
found that 300 lb. is as heavy a load as 
camels in good condition will, on the aver- 
age, carry for several days in succession. 

The Camel Corps and the Artillery had 
sufficient regimental transport to carry six 
days* rations for themselves, and six days* 
forage, at a daily ration of 8 lb. of grain for 
each camel ; but all the grain for horses, all 
further reserve of grain for the Egyptian 
camels, and all the grain for the Eleventh 
Transport Company, had to be carried by the 
350 camels of that company, which had also 
to carry their own European staff, with their 
kits, the kits of the Aden drivers, the equip- 
ment of the Hussars, certain headquarter 
baggage and office material, a large number 
of iron water-tanks — brought up in case we 
should be compelled to make a flanking 
movement to turn a position by the desert, 
— and all the flour for the native troops. We 


were fairly well off for transport; but we 
were going into an enemy*s country, where 
no supplies were likely to be forthcoming 
by purchase. It was said to be a very 
barren country also, and we must anticipate 
that the small store of grain kept by the 
natives would be either carried off or con- 
cealed, so that it was a matter of vital im- 
portance to take the utmost possible quan- 
tity of flour and grain with us. 

As it was, we were enabled to start from 
Hamdab, taking 24th February as the day 
from which the start was made, with the 
following supplies : about eighty-five days' 
boat rations for the whole European force, 
with the exception of sugar and salt, of 
which we were on very short rations 
throughout. The ration of sugar was re- 
duced even before we left Hamdab from 
two and a half to one and a half ounces ; 
and the ration of salt was reduced to a 
quarter of an ounce, and only issued on 
days when fresh meat was served out. 
This quantity of eighty-five days' supply 
was what was represented by the number of 

46 HAM DAB. 

cases of the various kinds of food ; but, be- 
fore leaving Hamdab, we had become aware 
that in certain items, especially biscuit, pre- 
served vegetables, rice, oatmeal, and to- 
bacco, considerable deductions must be 
made for goods damaged by water, owing 
to defective packing, or rather defective 
closing of the tin cases, and to the exposure 
to wet to which large quantities of cases had 
been subject in leaky or damaged boats on 
the way from Sarras to Korti. We estimated 
the probable loss in biscuit alone at thirty 
per cent, almost all the " cabin biscuit " 
being bad ; and accordingly we arranged 
that the convoy from Korosko was to bring 
to Abu Hamed supplies in the following 
proportions : meat, tea, lime-juice, pepper, 
one ration each ; preserved vegetables, one 
and a half; biscuit, sugar, and salt, two 
rations each. The great loss in sugar and 
salt was due chiefly to their having been 
packed in bags, not waterproof, which had 
become wet; and partly, especially in sugar, 
to thefts by natives at the various portages 


along our long line of communication from 
Alexandria to Korti. 

For the natives we started with sixty 
days' supply of flour, and forty days' supply 
of unground wheat, which could either be 
converted into flour, or be used for the 
horses, if the supply of grain should fail. 
We hoped to collect cattle and sheep, or to 
get these sent up after us, in sufficient num- 
bers to supply the natives daily with fresh 
meat ; and as a matter of fact, that supply 
did not fail us till we had reached Hebbeh, a 
month after our start : up to that date we 
were successful in supplying all the troops 
with fresh meat, and our preserved meat 
was almost untouched. 

For the horses we started with nearly 
forty days* grain. More could not be car- 
ried for want of transport The camels, 
it was evident from the first, must go short 
of grain, and subsist on the growing for- 
age, unless we could obtain grain in large 
quantities from the country we were about 
to enter. 

48 HAM DAB. 

For firewood we must trust to the local 
supply for the day's wants : our transport 
would not admit of our carrying on from 
each bivouac more than sufficient for the 
following day's needs, both boats and camels 
being loaded up with full loads. 

Such was our provision for the feeding of 
the troops and animals. As regards am- 
munition, each gun had a hundred rounds, 
and about 280 rounds for every rifle was 
carried in the boats. 

Our transport was in good condition. 
The boats, in spite of their rough work on 
the way up, were serviceable. They had 
mostly been overhauled at Korti. Many of 
them bore honourable scars in the shape 
of tin patches, and there was rather a lack 
of paint, but they were fit for work. Our 
camels were in sound, serviceable order, 
and their saddles were in good condition. 

The next work which demanded atten- 
tion was the organisation for the care of the 
sick and wounded. The material for a field- 
hospital of 200 beds had already been for- 


warded to Abu Dom ; but it was manifest 
to me, upon a cursory inspection, that it 
was upon a scale unsuited for our river ex- 
pedition. Twenty hospital marquees were 
luxuries that we could not afford to carry ; 
meat -covers and meat - skewers, however 
valuable elsewhere, were out of place here ; 
large pewter measures and beer-taps still 
more so, in a land where no beer is. Pairs 
of bellows might possibly be useful, though 
it was doubtful ; but coffee-mills could not 
help us, where there was no coffee. Sheets 
and pillows might be of great comfort, but 
they could only be taken in such small 
quantities as to be available for the worst 
cases; and so on through a long list, includ- 
ing blue waistcoats and trousers. In fact, 
all superfluous gear, to use the sailors* fa- 
vourite word, must be abandoned — sacrificed 
to the stern necessity of utilising every par- 
ticle of available transport for the carriage 
of food and ammunition. 

Accordingly, I visited Korti, and there 

saw Surgeon-General 0*Nial, the principal 



medical ofificer of the expedition, and Sur- 
geon-Major Harvey, who was selected as 
senior medical officer of the river column. 
They met me in the fairest way. I agreed, 
on General Earle's part, to give them one 
boat for each of the eight sections of the 
field - hospital, and a ninth boat for the 
senior medical officer, in which he could 
take extra comforts for the sick, and to 
furnish a sufficient number of men to make 
up, with the men of the Medical Staff 
Corps, crews for the boats. I undertook 
that, if tentage was necessary, it should be 
provided from the tents carried by the 
troops in their boats. They agreed to 
reduce the equipment, so that each section 
for twenty-five patients should be carried 
in one boat — a few luxuries such as con- 
densed milk, champagne, lime-juice, &c., 
being carried by the senior medical officer. 
Surgeon-Major Harvey proceeded to Abu 
Dom, and superintended the revision of the 
equipment, and its stowage in the whalers ; 
the crews for the whalers were sent down 


from Hamdab. And throughout the cam- 
paign, two sections of this field-hospital 
accompanied each infantry battalion. 

The resources of the field-hospital were 
made available to the utmost by the aban- 
donment of all rules of red tape. Medical 
officers of corps were granted the power of 
admission to and discharge from the hos- 
pital, and were authorised to draw from the 
field - hospital at all times whatever was 
wanted to keep their regimental medical 
equipment complete. 

We had no means, nor was there time at 
our disposal, for forming a bearer company 
to carry wounded out of action ; but it was 
arranged that the eight stretchers of each 
battalion should accompany the battalion 
into action, carried by the bandsmen of the 
battalion. Each corps was to carry its own 
sick in its own boats, and the sick of 
mounted corps were to be carried in the 
boats of the battalion to which they were 
attached for rations. For it is one of the 
penalties of a flying column that it must 



carry forward with it, and cannot leave be- 
hind or send back, its sick and wounded. 

A paymaster was sent to us with about 
;^ 1 0,000 in money. We spent about 
;^I500 in buying supplies, in native labour, 
&c., before leaving Hamdab ; but from that 
time forward Major Mackie, our paymaster, 
had an easy time, for money was useless 
in an arid desert where there were no 
sellers and nothing to buy. 

A veterinary surgeon accompanied the 

Only a few days before we left Hamdab, 
the telegraph was extended to an office in 
our fort there. This was a great boon, as 
it saved much time and labour hitherto 
expended in sending our messages to and 
receiving them from Abu Dom, nineteen 
miles away. The country was quite im- 
practicable for heliographic signalling, ow- 
ing to the absence of marked high hills, 
and the presence of a succession of low 

Before the 24th of January a number of 


Canadian voyageurs joined the column, and 
were distributed among the battalions and 
corps in boats ; and a boat-repairing party, 
under Lieutenant Kenney, R.E., arrived 
with repairing material. Its two boats' 
crews were from that moment almost in- 
cessantly at work. 

While the work of organisation was 
going on. General Earle, with his own 
hand, drew up a series of rules for the 
movement of the troops in boats, for em- 
barkations and disembarkations, for the 
bivouac, and for precautions on the march. 
He also designed special tactical formations 
for the march, with a view to rapidly pass- 
ing from column into square, and square 
into column. These memoranda, together 
with others drawn up on the system of 
supply during the advance, and the medical 
arrangements for the troops, were circu- 
lated ; and during our stay at Hamdab, the 
troops were frequently practised by General 
Earle, in the tactical formations he had 
devised, over the very roughest ground. 




sthto23d It seemed at one time, during the earlier 
portion of our period of concentration at 
Hamdab, that the necessities of the desert 
column, on which so much depended, 
would seriously cripple us of the river 
route. Colonel Burnaby had been pro- 
mised to us ; and General Earle had hoped 
to have him for the command of the 

6th Jan. mounted troops; but on the 6th January 
General BuUer telegraphed, " I must steal 
Burnaby. I do not know who else is to 

8th Jan. command Metemmeh." On the 8th General 
BuUer still counted on sending^ us the West 
Kent Regiment, to take up posts on our 

9th Jan. line of communications ; but on the 9th the 


first note of alarm to us was sounded. 
" Every endeavour/' General Duller wrote, 
" will be made to complete the infantry of 
your force up to lOO days' rations per man 
before they start; but it is possible the 
difficulties of transport may make it almost 
impossible to do this within a reasonable 
time. It is desirable, therefore, for you to 
consider whether it may not be possible 
for you to advance, say two battalions of 
infantry and a portion of your artillery 
and mounted men, through the Monassir 
country to Abu Hamed, and so open the 
line of supply from Korosko." In this 
case, General Earle was to keep touch 
of his rear battalions ; the Mudir's troops 
assisting him to do this by occupying the 
Monassir country; and he was reminded 
that for the present his main objective was 
the capture of Berber, and that for this 
purpose he must concentrate his force. 

To this minute General Earle replied loth Jan. 
that he should be prepared to advance with 
two battalions and the mounted troops as 



soon as he had two battalions of infantry 
complete with lOO days* supply, together 
with the portion of the transport company 
allotted to his column, by which time he 
hoped to have collected forage for the 
animals and food for the Egyptian troops. 
He considered all his small force of 
mounted troops should accompany his ad- 
vanced brigade, and he did not propose to 
divide them, as opposition was to be ex- 
pected to that brigade in the Monassir 
country. He wished the Mudir's troops to 
march parallel to us upon the right bank, 
and to be ready to occupy the Monassir 
country as soon as he had defeated the 
Monassir tribe. He asked for two com- 
panies of a regiment from the line of com- 
munications to occupy Hamdab and a post 
in the Monassir country; and in that case 
anticipated no military difificulty for the 
troops following the leading brigade, mov- 
ing in half - battalions. General Earle 
trusted that before he moved, his naval 
boat, with a Gardner gun, his boat officers 


and vo)-ageurs, and boat - repairing party 
might have reached his camp. He urged, 
also, that his commissariat staff should be 
prompdy and considerably increased. 

In reply General Earle was informed, on 15* j 
the 1 5th, that most of his requests were in 
course of fulfilment ; but that Lord Wolseley 
did not approve his proposal to take with 
him two companies of a line of communi- 
cation r^ment for the purpose of forming 
posts on his line. He was instructed that 
his force was to be a fl}nng column; that 
the General of communications would not 
occupy the line behind us ; and further, that 
it was improbable the West Kent Regiment 
could be rationed sufficiently in advance to 
enable it to follow us up the river. Our, 
at that time, very insufficient commissariat 
staff could not yet be increased, because 
there was no one at Korti to send to us. 
Our land transport was on the 14th only 
leaving Dongola; but Lord Wolseley was 
anxious that our leading battalions should 
advance at the very earliest moment to 


occupy the Monassir country, and con- 
sidered it not necessary that we should 
wait for our transport company, desiring 
General Earle to advance into the Monassir 
country, and there await the arrival of the 

At this time we had not a single baggage- 
camel, except the few belonging to the 
Egyptian Camel Corps and Artillery. To 
attempt an advance in boats into an ene- 
my's country by an unknown river, without 
cavalry to scout on the banks, would 
have been an act of folly; and cavalry 
could not move without some transport. 
It is true that I had moved half a troop 
from Korti to Hamdab without any trans- 
port animals, by carrying their forage and 
equipment in the boats of the Staffords, 
and making the horses and the boats 
rendezvous together at night ; but that was 
not a manoeuvre to be attempted outside a 
peaceful country. Indeed it is well we did 
not attempt it, for after the first day's 
advance the boats had to take a channel 


which effectually separated them from all 
touch of the horses for two days. 

There was another strong reason against 
our immediate advance. Our leading 
battalion, the Staffords, had been sent up 
with only thirty days* supplies, of which 
nearly twenty were already consumed. It 
had to fill up from the supplies of the Duke 
of Cornwall's Light Infantry, which we had 
halted at Abu Dom, and which, in its turn, 
had to fill up from the West Kent. This 
operation could not be completed till the 
2 2d; and if we advanced without our full 
quantity of supplies, we should never be 
able to bring them up, as our completing 
our required amount depended absolutely 
on every infantry boat taking up its full 
100 days per man in the boat. How 
important it seemed that we should not 
start without our full quantity can be 
judged from the fact that the same post 
which brought the above-named instruc- 
tions to General Earle, also brought him 
instructions that, subject to the military I 



necessities of the situation, he was to leave 
at Abu Hamed a garrison of 300 men, with 
sixty days* supply; and at Berber a garrison 
of 700 men with sixty days* supply, and 
also 40,000 complete rations; which, with 
800 ardebs of dourra that we were to 
purchase at Berber, would be required for 
the use of a force to be sent from Berber 
to Suakim. 
17th Jan. General Earle, therefore, replied by tele- 
graph to the Chief of the Staff on the 1 7th, 
that if the latter would send him forty 
baggage -camels, with saddles and drivers 
complete, at once, he could advance on 
the 23d, but not before, as the Staffords' 
supplies would not be complete sooner. 

He also wrote at length, explaining the 
situation. He said in his memorandum : 
"As I am aware that there is a consider- 
able force before us at Birti, as a prolonged 
halt in its immediate presence would be 
disadvantageous, and as I cannot inflict a 
severe defeat upon it without my small 
force of cavalry, I do not consider it ad- 


visable to advance from this camp until I 
can move with two battalions of infantry, 
the Hussars and other mounted troops, to 
the direct attack of the enemy's position/* 
He repeated the arguments stated above, 
and his offer to advance on 23d if forty 
camels were sent to him, and added : ** I 
must, however, point out, that by thus ad- 
vancing without other land transport, I shall 
be deprived of the means of making any 
turning movement in the desert, which would 
require a day's absence of the infantry from 
their boats ; and should difficult rapids 
render portaging necessary, I shall be 
without the means of carrying loads which 
the transport allotted to me was specially 
intended to provide." 

On the 1 7th General Duller replied, " I 
have not a camel or driver to send. They 
are in the desert." 

As regarded our power to carry out the 
instructions for leaving supplies at Abu 
Hamed and Berber, I went very carefully 
into calculations ; and the Chief of the Staff 


was informed that, in the event of our 
starting, filled up with all the rations we 
could take, and receiving 50,000 rations at 
Korosko, we should, supposing us to be 
ready to leave Berber on 3d March, have 
at that date only twenty-eight days' sup- 
plies for the balance of our force (1800 
men), after leaving the garrisons and sup- 
plies ordered at Abu Hamed and Berber. 
These calculations were accepted by the 
Chief of the Staff. 

19th Jan. On the 19th, the good news reached us 
that our transport under Captain Lea had 
reached Korti, would be completed to 350 
serviceable camels, and would start on the 

20th Jan. 20th; and on the 20th we were told that 
supplies to complete all our demands would 
leave at once in the steamer N ass if el 
Kheir, with the exception of certain quan- 
tities of biscuit, sugar, cocoa and milk for 
hospitals, salt, soap, and tobacco. General 
Buller s telegram ended : ** The consign- 
ment by Nassif Kheir and Lea will com- 
plete all I can send you. You must be 


thankful for small mercies, and go as quickly 
as you can." 

Colonel Butler arrived at Hamdab on 
the 20th, and General Earle decided to 
charge him with' the duty of reconnoitring 
for the advance of the force. He was to 
move with the cavalry and camel corps 
along the bank, cover the advance of and 
select camping-grounds for the troops in 
the boats; and he was to command the 
advanced post whenever headquarters were 
not present there.^ 

Lieutenant-Colonel Alleyne with a party 21st jan. 
of voyageurs arrived on the 21st. He was 
charged with the direction of the advance 
by river, and had as his assistants Captain 
Orde, Rifle Brigade, Captain Lord Avon- 
more, Hampshire Regiment, and Lieuten- 
ant Peel, 2d Life Guards, all by this time 
thoroughly experienced in boat-work on 
the Nile. 

^ At Colonel Butler's request, Major Martin, R.A., and 
Lieutenant Pirie, 2d Life Guards, were attached to him as 
staff officers. 




Captain Courtney, R.E., and Captain 
Hon. F. Colborne, Royal Irish Rifles, ar- 
rived for the purpose of surveying the river 
as we advanced. 

The headquarters of the ist battalion 
Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) arrived 
in our camp on the 13th, and the battalion 
was completed in the course of the next 
few days. 
2istto23d The headquarters of the ist battalion 
Gordon Highlanders arrived on the 21st, 
but the battalion was still incomplete on 
the 24th. One company had been left to 
garrison Haifa ; and one company, with the 
Lieutenant- Colonel second in command, was 
still far behind. 

The 2d battalion Duke of Cornwall's 
Light Infantry, after handing over its sup- 
plies to the Staffords at Abu Dom, waited 
there to complete its own supplies from 
convoys sent up from Korti. Its first half- 
battalion reached Hamdab on the 23d; its 
headquarters and remaining half on the 


The camel battery marched from Abu 
Dom to Hamdab on the 2 2d, joining the 
camel corps there. 

After placing great difficulties in the 
way, the Mudir of Dongola had consented 
to his troops advancing into the Monassir 
country by the right bank. I do not pro- 
pose to enter into any detail of their com- 
position, or into the story of their march. 
It is sufficient here to state that, after 
having succeeded in taking over the Va- 
keel's fort at Abu Dom for the use of 
the two companies of the Essex Regiment, 
which arrived there as garrison on the 23d, 
Col vile succeeded in getting the Mudir's 
troops crossed over to the right bank 
at Merawi on the 21st and 2 2d. On the 
23d, to the number of 310, they made a 
short march out from Merawi, complete, 
Colvile informed us, with transport (camels 
and donkeys) and ammunition (120 rounds 
per man), but without riding-camels for 
scouting. They had also a brass gun, 

which they used to fire off at night. The 



Vakeel accompanied them, saying it was 
necessary he should do so, to prevent ill- 
treatment of friendly natives. Before start- 
ing, he telegraphed to the Mudir to say 
that, ** with God's help, he hoped to collect 
some taxes." 

The situation in the Soudan, as known 
to us at this time, was as follows. Herbert 
Stewart, having established a post at Gak- 
dul, had returned to Korti, had again ad- 
vanced to and beyond Gakdul, and had 
fought the action of Abu Klea. Our 
knowledge of the details of that fight was 
very limited ; but we could read between 
the lines of the telegrams, and could tell 
that Stewart had met with a very deter- 
mined resistance, and that somehow the 
enemy had got inside the square. We 
were told that Stewart was continuing his 
advance on Metemmeh. 

A messenger from Gordon, who had left 
for Khartoum on i8th December, had re- 
turned to Korti on nth January; but un- 
fortunately, on his way back his letters had 


been taken from him, and he had been so 
severely beaten he could recollect nothing. 
Thus our latest news from Khartoum was 
still the few words — " All well, 14th Decem- 
ber," and the verbal message mentioned in 
the first chapter. 

From Berber we had news as late as the 
23d December. All was then quiet there. 
There were very few soldiers in the town ; 
they were spread about in the surrounding 
villages — the Egyptian soldiers working as 
slaves at the sakyehs. The town was said 
to be surrounded by an intrenchment ; and 
there were some guns, varying in the state- 
ments from three to six in number, on the 
left bank of the river at Robush or Mas- 
seed, the village opposite Berber. Moham- 
med el Kheir, the Mahdi's Emir of Berber, 
had applied to the Mahdi for reinforcements 
and guns, but had met with a refusal to send 

From Abu Hamed we had news as late 
as the 3d January. The sakyehs between 
Berber and Abu Hamed were then at work. 


Abu Hegel, chief of the Robatab, was at 
his own village. Sheikhs Hassan Wad Hag 
Said and AH Basha were at Abu Hamed — 
having replaced two sheikhs who had been 
recalled, because they had not reported a 
reconnaissance to near Abu Hamed made 
by Major Rundle and Sheikh Saleh Bey in 

Our latest news from Birti was of the 
1 8th January; but we had spies there who 
were to inform us of any serious change in 
the situation. Suleiman Wad Gamr had 
returned from Berber, but had gone to Sal- 
amat to meet Abdul Majid Wad Abu Lek- 
alik, who had arrived from Berber with 
reinforcements at least a thousand strong, 
and he was remaining at Salamat to bring 
up more reinforcements. Lekalik, as we 
shall hereafter call him, was on the i8th 
at Birti with 1 500 dervishes and the Mon- 
assir and Robatab, and had been placed by 
the Emir of Berber in command of all the 
troops there. He was said to have been 
anxious to advance to fight us, but Sulei- 


man had urged remaining at Birti ; and 
now that Lekalik had agreed to remaining 
at Birti, Suleiman wanted to retire to the 
Shukook Pass. Moussa Wad Abu Hegel 
was still at Birti, and said to be full of fight. 
To sum up the state of the information 
obtained through our intelligence depart- 
ment up to 23d January : All was well at 
Khartoum on 14th December; Stewart had 
had a hard fight, and was advancing on 
Metemmeh on i8th January; Berber was 
quiet, and not strongly defended, on 23d 
December ; Abu Hamed had a small garri- 
son and no defences on 3d January ; a force 
about 3000 strong was in front of us at 
Birti — consisting of Berberines, Monassir, 
and Robatab, about 500 of them having 
rifles — and its commander meant fighting. 
BuUer had told us that, from various ac- 
counts of Stewart's fight, he found that 
"these Arabs do charge home, and very 
quickly," and had advised us "not to let 
them get a run at us unless we were in 


Our orders were to advance through the 
Monassir country, take and garrison Abu 
Hamed, receive a convoy from Korosko, 
and advance on Berber. When near Ber- 
ber — within twenty miles — we were to fire 
a gun and two rockets every night at twelve. 
The desert column was to have steamers 
and men six or eight miles above Berber, 
and would answer our signal, and the steam- 
ers would then reconnoitre and assist our 
attack. We knew that Rundle had 700 
camels ready to march from Korosko, and 
we had arranged signals to let him know 
of our proximity to Abu Hamed ; and we 
telegraphed to Cairo asking that our letters 
and papers by the mail leaving Cairo 2 2d 
should be sent to Korosko to await the 
departure of this convoy. We also ar- 
ranged for supplies of such vitally neces- 
sary material as paint for the boats and 
shoes for the horses being sent by the same 
aadjan. Qn the 2 2d Colonel Butler reconnoitred 
to Ooli island, and selected a site for a 


camp. He reported the river free from 
obstacles to that point. The natives had 
fled between Kulgeili and OoH, but at the 
latter place some were remaining. 

On the 23d our transport, about 330 23d jan. 
camels, under Captain Lea, arrived at 
Hamdab. Arrangements were at once 
made for handing over regimental trans- 
port to the Hussars, the necessary trans- 
port to headquarters, and for mounting 
staff officers, who had been sent up to the 
column without any sort of mount; and 
then orders for the advance on the follow- 
ing day were issued. 

Colonel Hammill, of the Gordon High- 
landers, was left in command at Hamdab, 
with orders to send on the Cornwalls by 
half-battalions on 25th and 26th, with two 
sections of the field-hospital. On the 26th 
he was to send on the Egyptian battery 
and the transport company under escort of 
a portion of the camel corps, left behind 
for this purpose, the whole under command 
of Major Wodehouse, R.A. He was him- 

^2 HAM DAB. 


self to follow with his own battalion and 
two sections of field - hospital, as soon as 
his battalion was concentrated, having 
previously sent down to Abu Dom any 
superfluous stores remaining at Hamdab, 
and disestablished the telegraph. 

General Duller, in asking me to send him 
a state of our force before actually starting, 
had said to me : " I know you have been 
handicapped ; but now the force is com- 
pleted, I mention that I know Lord Wolse- 
ley attaches great importance to your mak- 
ing as rapid an advance as possible ; '' and 
had asked me for the probable date of 
our arrival at Abu Hamed. I replied : 
** We start to-morrow. It is impossible to 
predict the date of reaching Abu Hamed. 
It must depend on nature of river and 
opposition of enemy, both unknown quan- 





Before General Earle left Korti, Lord 
Wolseley gave him some dates of probable 
moves, which he entered in his pocket- 
book. The first of these was, " Leave 
Hamdab, 24th January." We were punc- 
tual to our time. On the morning of the 24th Jan. 
24th the advance commenced at 7 a.m. 
The Hussars and half the camel corps 
marched at seven, their baggage and head- 
quarter baggage following at to o'clock 
under an escort of mounted troops. Two 
companies of the Staffordshire, with Lieut- 
Colonel AUeyne and the other boat officers, 
moved off by river at seven, followed by 


the boats of the Royal Engineers, and then 
the remainder of the battalion. The Black 
Watch followed at eight; the boat-repair- 
ing party, the senior medical officer, half the 
field- hospital, two headquarter boats, and 
three guard boats manned by Gordon 
Highlanders, moving between the half- 
battalions of the Black Watch. The masts 
of all whalers were lowered before starting, 
as we were about to commence a long jour- 
ney against the prevailing north wind. 

Headquarters marched about 1 1 a.m. 
Before starting we telegraphed to Korti : 
"Just off; all going as well as possible; 
troops in high spirits, longing for a fight ; 
no sick." As we rode along the bank we 
saw many boats in difficulties. The chan- 
nel was full of sunken rocks ; and nine boats 
had to be unloaded, hauled up, and repaired 
either by their own crews or the boat- 
repairing party. The last boats did not 
arrive opposite Ooli island, about eight 
miles from Hamdab, till 7 p.m.; but by half- 
past 7 we were all in bivouac. The 


anchorage on the left bank being scanty, the 
Black Watch bivouacked on the right bank 
opposite. The position for the bivouac of 
the Staffords and mounted troops was on 
a high Nile island — that is to say, on land 
which, though now connected with the main- 
land, would at high Nile be entirely separated 
from it by a wide deep channel, now only 
partially full and crossed by a causeway. 

On the arrival of the leading boats, the 
mounted troops reconnoitred along the left 
bank, a short distance beyond Kabour, and 
found the country deserted. Two of the 
boat officers reconnoitred by river. The 
result of the combined reports, and of na- 
tive information, was that the channel along 
the left bank was impracticable for boats ; 
and it was decided that the channel on the 
right bank, on the far side of Great Ooli 
island, must be used. It was found that 
it could be reached from the left bank 
channel by a narrow dyke between Great 
Ooli island and another small island just 
opposite the camp of the Staffords. 


And now commenced our first military 
difficulty, necessitating the first of those 
moves in the game of chess which we sub- 
sequently had to play. The infantry was 
about to be effectually separated from the 
mounted troops. Any boats sent into the 
rapids in the right-bank channel would be 
as completely separated from us for the 
time being as if they were a hundred miles 
away. A force of 3000 of the enemy was 
known to be within eighteen miles of us ; 
and in the rocky and difficult country into 
which we had now entered, every move 
must be made with caution. If there was 
one thing more important than another, it 
was that we should avoid the smallest 
chance of being surprised. It would not 
do to send a small force of 60 Hussars and 
40 Egyptian Camel Corps to bivouac by 
themselves in advance on the left bank. 
Yet the head of the rapid through which 
the troops were about to pass must be held, 
and cavalry must scout well to its front. 
It was therefore decided to march half a 


battalion of the Black Watch to the neigh- 
bourhood of Kabour to form a post there, 
with the cavalry and camel corps at a 
point where the Staffords, who were to be 
sent into the right -bank channel, would 
again emerge into the main stream at the 
head of Suffi island. 

About 7 P.M. we got into heliographic 
communication with Colvile, who had, with 
the Mudir's troops, reached Ummerikh, on 
the right bank opposite our bivouac. We 
sent over a signaller to relieve one of his 
who had been touched by the sun, and at the 
same time ordered him to advance the fol- 
lowing day on the right bank to the head of 
the rapid (known as Edermih cataract) into 
which we were about to launch the Staffords. 

Information as to the channel between 
Hamdab and our present bivouac was sent 
back to Hamdab, for the use of the troops 
who were to follow, and the messenger took 
back our report of progress for the Chief of 
the Staff. 

On the morning of the 25th, Colonel 


asthjan. Butler moved off with the mounted troops, 
and selected a strong position for the ad- 
vanced post on a small rocky high Nile island, 
just above the head of Suffi island ; and 
the half-battalion Black Watch arrived there 
at lo o'clock. The Staffords had moved 
into the dike leading to the right-bank chan- 
nel at 6.45 A.M., and soon after 8 o'clock 
their last boat was lost to view. Half the 
battalion Black Watch remained at Ooli 
bivouac, where, in the course of the day, they 
were joined by the leading half-battalion of 
the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. 

General Earle with his staff rode to the 
advanced post, arriving there about 1 1 am. 
Communication by heliograph was at once 
established with the Ooli bivouac, and about 
the same time the Mudir's troops arrived at 
Mushra el Abiad on the opposite bank, and 
Colvile established his heliograph there. 

We then rode up the river as far as Ka- 
benat, about three miles beyond Kabour. 
Here we found a strong fort, with walls 
eight to twelve feet thick built of loose 


Stones, and capable of holding a garrison 
of 500 men, on the top of a high detached 
hill, completely commanding the river and 
bank; and a similar fort opposite on the 
right bank, with swift and difficult water 
flowing between. Who built these forts ? 
From what period do they date ? There is 
a vague tradition among the Soudanese that 
they were built by some Christian power 
some centuries ago, and I am satisfied these 
forts are of comparatively modern date. 
Ascending to the fort, we obtained an ex- 
tended view, and were shortly joined by 
Colonel Butler, who told us he had recon- 
noitred to the cataract of Kab el Abd, five 
miles further on. He reported the country 
clear and fairly open, and the water fairly 
clear up to Kab el Abd, the cataract there 
being like the big gate of Semneh. All the 
country beyond Ooli camp was deserted. 

We returned to Kabour post, and about 
4 P.M. got into communication by heliograph 
with Colonel Alleyne on Suffi island. 
He told us three complete companies were 



through the cataract ; so he was ordered to 
send on two companies to relieve the half- 
battahon Black Watch, which Colonel But- 
ler was ordered to send back to Ooli as 
soon as relieved. Colvile was directed to 
keep the Mudir*s troops halted till further 
orders. Instructions were sent back to 
Hamdab to detain the artillery and trans- 
port there till further orders, and to send 
two officers of the Gordon Highlanders to 
view the river as far as Kabenat, in order 
to expedite the advance of the battalion 
later on. General Earle and staff then re- 
turned to the Ooli bivouac. 

Two companies of the Staffords reached 
the Kabour advanced post shortly after 
dark ; but as the pickets of the Black Watch 
were posted. Colonel Butler did not relieve 
them, and the half-battalion did not return 
to Ooli till the following morning. 
26th Jan. At the usual hour on the 26th (6.45 a.m.), 
the half-battalion Black Watch at Ooli, with 
one boat of repairing party, and field-hos- 
pital, moved off into the Edermih cataract. 


piloted by a boat officer sent back for the 
purpose, and followed by the second half- 
battalion, as soon as it arrived from Kabour. 
The second half-battalion of the Cornwalls 
arrived at Ooli. 

General Earle and his staff again rode to 
Kabour. The Staffords completed the pas- 
sage of the cataract, and concentrated at 
the advanced post. In the afternoon we 
embarked in a whaler and crossed to the 
Mudir's camp, where General Earle in- 
spected the Mudir s troops under Achmet 
Effendi. The Vakeel was living in a tent, 
with carpets and cushions — a great contrast 
to our primitive open-air bivouac. Coffee 
was served, the situation was discussed, 
and we then dropped down in our boat to 
the head of Suffi island, where we met 
Colonel AUeyne, and walked with him to 
the cataract. The leading wing of the 
Black Watch was passing through, and the 
rear wing was closing up at the foot of the 
rapid. The cataract (Edermih) was a very 

troublesome one. In the first place, two 




small shoots of rapids had to be tracked up ; 
then came three-quarters of a mile of swift 
broken rapids, with four shoots or rushes of 
water, the last of which was like the great 
gate of Semneh. Arms, ammunition, and 
accoutrements had to be portaged for three- 
quarters of a mile, and the crews of three 
boats had to be employed to haul one boat 
through. Alleyne thought it was as bad 
water as any on the river. 

We returned to Kabour, and thence to 
Ooli, leaving orders with Colonel Butler to 
advance with the Staffords and as many 
of the Black Watch as possible to Kab el 
Abd next day. Only two companies of the 
Black Watch reached Kabour that night. 

Orders were sent to Colonel Hammill at 
Hamdab for the artillery and transport to 
march with their escort on the 28th. Col- 
vile was instructed to move in the morning 
with the Mudir^s troops, and take up a posi- 
tion opposite Kab el Abd. Meanwhile 
he was to urge the Vakeel to keep his 
troops in hand, as they had been setting fire 


to huts, and we were in a thieoretically 
friendly country. The Cornwalls were 
ordered to advance into the Edermih cata- 
ract in the morning. 

In the night one of our spies returned 
from Birti. He brought word that on 
Saturday the 24th there were at Birti some 
2500 men, under five chiefs, of whom the 
most prominent were Lekalik, Suleiman 
Wad Gamr, and Moussa Wad Abu Hegel. 
He told us it was their intention to attack 
us when our boats were separated in the 
cataract of Kab el Abd, or beyond it, and 
that they meant to attack in the early morn- 
ing, when it was cold. 

Colonel Butler was then further instructed 
to push on to the foot of Kab el Abd, and 
concentrate the two leading battalions there. 
He was to reconnoitre with the mounted 
troops till he should get touch of the enemy, 
endeavouring to ascertain his strength and 
position, and falling back upon the infantry ; 
and Colvile was directed to advance his 
troops only as far as Shebabit, and to push 


a reconnaissance on the right bank as near- 
ly opposite to Birti as he could reach, en- 
deavouring to ascertain the enemy s strength 
and position there. 
27th Jan. On the 27th the Cornwalls advanced into 
the Edermih cataract, and the StafFords and 
Black Watch concentrated about a mile 
short of Kab el Abd cataract, where head- 
quarters joined them. A strong position 
was taken up here, and a zareeba made. 
It was ascertained that the great gate of 
the cataract could be avoided by tracking 
up the opposite bank. 

Meanwhile the mounted troops advanced, 
and some two and a half miles beyond the 
cataract sighted about 1 20 of the enemy on 
foot, with seven or eight horsemen, near the 
tomb of a sheikh at Warag. Shots were 
exchanged at about a thousand yards, and 
the enemy retiring, a further advance was 
made. Colonel Butler reported on return 
to camp that about two miles above the 
great gate of Kab el Abd there commenced 
two miles of bad rapid water. 


The news of the river was bad. We 
seemed to have entered upon a succession 
of troublesome rapids. The land, too, was 
as bad as it could well be — nothing but 
black rocks and sand everywhere ; scarcely 
a scrap of cultivation visible. But the 
news that the cavalry had really exchanged 
shots with the enemy cheered us, and there 
were tangible results in the shape of four 
camels, six oxen, and sixty sheep, captured 
by Marriott's camel corps. General Earle, 
telegraphing that night, reported, " Troops 
in excellent spirits, and only seven slight 
cases of sickness in whole force." 

Meanwhile Col vile had not let the grass 
grow under his feet. No sooner had he 
reached Shebabit than, mounting ten of the 
Mudir's men on ten of his best baggage- 
camels, he pushed on with them fourteen 
miles to Hush el Jeruf, the village right 
opposite Birti, whence he obtained a good 
view of the enemy's camp. He described 
it to us as situated on a gentle slope, run- 
ning down from a low range of hills to the 


river, the ground being broken and rocky, 
and the camp commanded on all sides. 
Owing to the nature of the ground it was 
difficult to see distinctly, but his impression 
was that there were not more than looo 
of the enemy. Three tents were visible. 
About 300 of the enemy had collected on 
a rise in the ground, and watched his party. 

On his return over a succession of what 
at high Nile would be islands, but which 
had now a dry channel between them and 
the mainland, he met with no opposition, 
but was followed by a small body of horse 
and foot. He learned that several deser- 
tions had taken place from among the 

He described the population on the right 
bank as remaining at work on its sakyehs, 
and presenting, therefore, a very different 
appearance to that of the barren deserted 
waste through which we were passing on 
the left bank. 

That evening we received through Korti 
a long telegram from Colonel Rundle at 


Korosko, giving details of the tribes who, 
according to the report of his sheikhs, were 
gathered to oppose us at Birti. It wound 
up thus : " I can get none of the sheikhs 
to go below 10,000 as the force in front, of 
General Earle. They have no doubt now 
of their intention to fight.'* 

Orders were issued for the advance to 
commence at the usual hour in the morn- 
ing ; and Colvile was directed to cover the 
advance of the boats on the right bank, and 
endeavour to communicate with our sig- 
nallers on Mishami ridge. 





28th Jan. Early on the 28th the infantry advanced 
in their boats. The StafFords and Black 
Watch passed through the Kab el Abd 
cataract, with damage to two boats of the 
Black Watch, and reached a point in the 
rapids about two miles distant from their 
camp of the previous night, immediately 
opposite the foot of Kandi island. The 
anchorage on the left bank was apparently 
insufficient for two battalions, and the Black 
Watch bivouacked on Kandi island — the 
Staffords occupying a semicircular position, 
which was covered by a zareeba, with out- 
posts and sentries placed on a bastion-like 
hill in front of the camp. It was a most 


unsatisfactory military position ; but we 
were on this occasion, as on others, com- 
pelled to bivouac on sites badly suited for 
defence, as we were restricted in the choice 
of sites by the limit of distance the boats 
could travel, and the necessity for bivouack- 
ing where there was anchorage. This was 
a wind-swept, sun-baked, dusty spot, with- 
out shade by day or shelter by night, at the 
extremity of a ridge of forbidding black 
rocks known as Mishami ridge. 

Meanwhile the Corn walls completed the 
passage of the Edermih cataract, begun on 
the previous day, and reached the foot 
of Kab el Abd, where we had bivouacked 
the previous night. 

Our mounted troops reconnoitred as far 
as Rahami cataract, seven or eight miles to 
the front ; and Colonel Butler reported no 
signs of the enemy. It would, he con- 
sidered, be possible to push a battalion 
through the rapids immediately in front of 
us by nightfall on the 29th, but it would be 
necessary to portage arms and ammunition. 


Colvile had vainly tried to find a position 
on the right bank opposite us ; but the 
rocky nature of the ground, and the numer- 
ous islands intervening between the right 
and left bank, made it impossible. He, 
however, found a safe camping-ground on 
Umkumtata island nearly opposite Gamra, 
about three miles above our camp at Mish- 
ami ridge, all the channels between tHe 
islands themselves, and between the islands 
and the right bank, being sufficiently dry 
to admit of their being crossed by the 
Mudirs troops. 

Our artillery and transport, with an 
escort of half Major Marriott's Egyptian 
Camel Corps, marched from Hamdab, and 
took up a position, surrounded by a zareeba, 
on some open ground about a mile in our 
rear, where there was a certain amount of 
forage and a good watering-place for the 
29th Jan. At 6.45 on the 29th, six companies of the 
Black Watch marched to Warag, and took 
up a position on fairly open ground at the 


head of the rapid ; while the mounted troops 
pushed on, with orders from General Earle 
that they were to push home to Birti and 
bring back information as to the enemy's 
strength. The Cornwalls passed through 
the Kab el Abd cataract, and arrived at 
Mishami ridge, when we at once proceeded 
to form a zareeba on a horse-shoe-topped 
hill, which we held at night with the Corn- 
walls and half the Black Watch. 

The Staffords entered the Umhaboah 
rapid at the same early hour. It proved to 
be the worst piece of water yet encountered, 
and it was with great difficulty and labour 
that four companies succeeded in working 
their way to Warag by sunset. Meanwhile 
the Black Watch had been forming a zareeba; 
and as soon as the half- battalion of the 
Staffords reached it, two companies of the 
Black Watch marched back to Mishami 
ridge, leaving half a battalion at Warag 
with the Staffords. The other wing of the 
Staffords bivouacked together in a zareeba 
about half-way through the rapid. 


In the course of the morning a report 
was received from Colonel Colvile that a 
spy had returned from Birti with news that 
reinforcements from Berber, which would 
bring the Birti force up to 5000 men, had 
left Salamat on the 27th, and were to 
reach Birti on the 29th. Part of this force 
was said to be advancing on the right bank; 
and as General Earle did not wish Colonel 
Colvile and the Mudir's troops to run any 
risk of being attacked by superior force in 
an isolated position, he directed Colvile 
to fall back to the end of Kandi island, 
opposite Mishami ridge. Colvile came 
himself with a few men, and was brought 
over to our camp in a boat ; but the Vakeel 
protested against falling back, as it would 
tire his men, and he could not find anywhere 
on the islands so good and open a position 
as the one he was in. As the Mudir's troops 
seemed to be free from anxiety as to their 
position. General Earle did not press his 
order for their return. 

Orders were sent back to Hamdab di- 


recting the Gordon Highlanders to move 
without fail on the 30th ; and a boat officer 
who had been twice through Edermih 
cataract and once through Kab el Abd, 
was sent to pilot them from Ooli. 

On Colonel Butler's return at night, we 
learnt the result of his reconnaissance. He 
had pushed to within a mile of Birti, and 
had found the hills approaching close to the 
river, leaving only a narrow space for the 
road, which was rough, stony, and broken. 
He had come in sight of a body of the 
enemy about 700 to 800 yards distant, ap- 
parently advancing, and had retired from 
the broken ground, and taken up a po- 
sition. Slade had ascended a hill from 
which he had looked down on the enemy s 
camp, and had seen a body of them, whose 
number he estimated at 2000, parading with 
the apparent object of advancing. Marriott 
on the right had fallen in with a scouting- 
party of the enemy, and had exchanged 
shots, having one camel killed. He had 
worked down a wady to the right, from 


which he had seen three camps of the 

News reached us to-day that Herbert 
Stewart had advanced on the i8th, and had 
had a second fight on the 19th. We were 
told that the enemy did not charge home so 
well as on the 17th, and that our men's 
steady volleys had been too much for them ; 
but that they shot well with their Reming- 
tons. Our troops, we learnt, were strongly 
intrenched at Goubat, two miles south of 
Metemmeh, which was still held by the 
enemy. Four of Gordon's steamers were 
co-operating with us, of which two had 
started on the 24th for Khartoum with 
Sir C. Wilson and a small detachment of 
the Sussex Regiment. Herbert Stewart, 
we were told, was severely wounded, but 
was progressing satisfactorily, and great 
hopes were entertained of his recovery. 
Talbot with a large convoy had reached 
Gakdul from Goubat. Half the Royal Irish 
had left Korti on the 28th ; the remainder 
and West Kent were to follow. Wilson 


reported large reinforcements marching from 
Berber to Metemmeh. General Duller was 
going to take command, and told us that 
** if Khartoum is sufficiently provisioned, 
we don't mean to do anything until you 
join us." 

Our situation was aggravating. The 
desert column already on the Nile above 
Metemmeh, and proposing to wait there till 
we could join them ; the enemy in force in 
our front ten miles away ; and our troops 
scattered along these terrible rapids, which 
seemed to grow more and more difficult 
with each mile of our advance. There was 
nothing for it but to push on, and concen- 
trate a sufficient force within striking dis- 
tance of the enemy, who was apparently 
resolved to hold his ground at Birti. 

I for one slept lightly that night. It was 
bitterly cold, and there was no escaping the 
wind. A full moon, which we hoped was 
to light us to victory at Birti, was shining. 
More than once I walked round the zareeba, 
where our sentries were standing motion- 



less, looking out over the rocks and ravines 
around. At last I was sleeping soundly, 
when I was awakened by the field-officer of 
the Black Watch on duty, who told me that 
a native dressed in white had crept up, 
leading a horse, to within a few yards of 
the zareeba, had looked down upon our 
cavalry below, and had then made off again. 
Did it portend an early attack ? If so, we 
were ready at any moment. The first note 
of alarm by one of our sentries would have 
brought all our men, armed and accoutred, 
to their feet, and have lined the zareeba 
with a circle of bayonets, and of rifles ready 
to sweep the surrounding space with their 
fire. Should we hear firing from either of 
our smaller advanced posts, and have to 
march to their assistance ; or was it only 
a bold spy, come to learn our strength and 
dispositions for defence ? 

Nothing came to disturb us further. 

30th Jan. RdveilU sounded at five ; and the troops 

stood to their arms as usual. Our cavalry 

patrols went out, and to them at once 


surrendered himself the gentleman who had 
visited us the night before. His story was 
as follows : He had been an Egyptian 
soldier, one of the garrison of Berber, when 
that place was taken by the Mahdi ; he had 
been made to join the Mahdi's troops ; he 
had been one of the force which marched 
from Berber to Birti under Lekalik, and 
had been made to take command of a body 
of riflemen there, commanding outposts at 
night, and visiting the troops by day. He 
said that on the previous night he had 
deserted, bringing with him a horse, the 
property of Moussa Wad Abu Hegel, and 
his rifle and ammunition. He told us 
that the force at Birti consisted of 5000 
Monassir, 4000 Robatab, and 6000 Bisharin 
and Berberines; but that there were only 
300 rifles, and thirty rounds of ammuni- 
tion per rifle. He said that the gun from 
Stewart's steamer was there, but spiked 
and without ammunition. * Lekalik had first 
seen our scouts on the 25th; he had then 

intended occupying Mishami ridge, but 



found it held by us on the 28th. The 
enemy had made a stone parapet, facing 
the road and river at Birti, but no other 
defences ; and they intended standing 
there, though the Robatab were deserting. 
Lekalik and Moussa had followed our 
retiring scouts yesterday on horseback ; and 
drums were beating all evening. Our 
friend told us that Lekalik had received a 
letter from Berber telling him there had 
been a great fight at Metemmeh. 

There was nothing in this information to 
alter the dispositions made for the day. 
Half a battalion of the Corn walls marched 
to Warag, and relieved the wing of the 
Black Watch there. The Staffords con- 
tinued their advance through the cataract, 
and concentrated at Warag, where also half 
a battalion of the Black Watch arrived in 
its boats. The other wing of the Black 
Watch, after its return to Mi^hami, entered 
the Umhaboah cataract, but did not get 
through, bivouacking where half the Staf- 
fords had bivouacked on the previous 


night The Corn walls remained at Mish- 
ami ridge. Headquarters and the mounted 
troops moved to Warag. Cavalry had a 
quiet day, vedettes out, and nothing of 
importance occurred. 

Above Warag there still lay two miles of 
bad rapid water to Gamra, where there was 
excellent anchorage and camping-ground. 
Gamra was about seven miles from Birti, 
and General Earle decided to concentrate 
three battalions, the mounted troops, and 
artillery there; and to make it the point 
from which he would march to attack the 
enemy, leaving his boats and transport 
covered by a strong detachment in a good 
zareeba, with clear field of fire. Accordingly 
on the 31st he marched the Staffords by 31st Jan. 
land to Gamra, covered by the mounted 
troops. On arrival they prepared the 
ground, and made a zareeba for the Black 
Watch, who advanced in boats, being so 
much retarded by the difficult water that 
they did not succeed in concentrating at 
Gamra till 7 p.m., when the Staffords 


marched back to Warag. The Cornwalls, 
in the meantime, entered the Umhaboah 
cataract ; six companies reached Warag, and 
two bivouacked in rear. Their reserve am- 
munition was carried on camels to Gamra. 

Colonel Butler's report of the direct road 
along the river to the enemy s camp did 
not seem to favour a direct attack. We 
should apparently have to force our way 
through a gorge between rocks and river, 
commanded by hills on our right ; and 
should, on emerging," find ourselves faced by 
the enemy's stone parapet, of which the 
deserter had told us. It was therefore very 
desirable, from tactical as well as strategical 
reasons, to find a way by which we could 
outflank the position ; and I was sent by 
General Earle to ascertain if such a way 
was to be found. Accompanied by Colonel 
Butler, Colonel Colvile, Major Slade, and 
the deserter from Birti, I reconnoitred with 
the mounted troops to the south-east into 
the desert; and ascending a high detached 
hill about six miles from our camp, and 


four and a half miles from Birti, discov- 
ered that the low hills which enclosed the 
position of Birti formed a semicircle, with 
its flanks on the river; that immediately 
behind the hills there ran, straight from 
the hill on which we were, a broad khor 
or wady, — a dry sandy watercourse, which 
struck the river beyond the enemy's camp, 
and at the end of which we could see the 
palm-trees on the river-bank that marked 
— so our deserter said — the site of Suleiman 
Wad Gamr's abode. It was evident that 
from this wady there were branches leading 
straight into the enemy's camp, and the 
deserter assured us it was so. Here then 
was our line of attack clearly marked out, 
and the more satisfactorily that the khor 
could be reached from the camp at Gamra 
without passing over more than about two 
miles of broken ground. 

It struck us at the time as singular that 
we saw no signs of the enemy's presence, 
— not a man on the look-out, not a beast 
grazing on the shrubs and coarse grass of 


the wady; and I should have pushed our 
reconnaissance along the wady, were it not 
that, feeling sure General Earle would 
adopt this line of attack, I did not like to 
show our hand. Up to this time the enemy 
evidently considered us only capable of 
moving along the river-bank, and it would be 
dangerous to disabuse their minds too soon. 
On our return to camp in the evening, 
Slade proceeded to examine at length a 
deserter who had come into our camp in 
the morning, but whom he had only cur- 
sorily questioned before our start to recon- 
noitre. From this man he learnt that on 
the previous day — sl report having been 
received at Birti that the English would 
attack from the desert side, and that the 
Turks (Mudir's troops) would advance on 
the right bank — a council of war had been 
held, at which it was decided to retire. 
The troops had broken up at sunset, and 
marched (about 1500 in number) towards 
Salamat, with the intention, this deserter 
said, of going to the Shukook pass. So, if 


this were true, Birti was empty at the very 
time we were reconnoitring for the best way 
to attack it. 

Before starting with me in the morning, 
Colvile had received a letter from the 
Vakeel. I must preface what is coming by 
saying that the Vakeel, when at Korti at 
New Year, had been promised a very hand- 
some reward if he were instrumental in 
catching Suleiman Wad Gamr and the 
blind man, and was very eager to earn it. 
His letter now was to the effect that last 
night (30th), Omar, Suleiman's uncle, had 
come in, and asked the Vakeel to promise 
him for the remainder of his tribe and 
Suleiman, that nobody would hurt them. 
The Vakeel had promised that no harm 
should happen to them or to Suleiman, 
whereupon Omar had gone back to bring 
them. ''We shall get them by these 
means," said the Vakeel, "and then we 
can do what we like." The Vakeel was 
in high spirits over this joyful news, which 
must have been rather damped by Colonel 


Colvile's reply : " We will treat Omar and 
his brothers well if they come in ; but the 
only promise we can make to Suleiman 
Wad Gamr and Colonel Stewart's mur- 
derers is, that we will hang them if we 
catch them/* 

Colvile, as soon as he returned to our 
camp, crossed over and saw the Vakeel, 
reminded him of his repeated instructions 
to make no terms with Suleiman Wad 
Gamr, and said his proposal could not 
be for a moment entertained. To this he 
replied that the only way we could get 
through our difficulties was by leading 
Suleiman to believe we were his friends, 
and killing him afterwards. On Colvile 
refusing to listen to such a proposal, the 
Vakeel handed him a letter of remon- 
strance, saying that if we could bring in 
Suleiman, the tribes before us would be 
scattered; if not, we should have great 
trouble. Colvile then returned to our 
camp, and in the course of the evening 
received another letter from the Vakeel, 


saying that Omar and Abu Bekr, Suleiman's 
uncles, had come into his camp as friends, 
asserting that they had sent Lekalik and 
Moussa, with their people, away out of their 
country, and that they held their own people 
to be with the Government. This was 
rather amusing, considering that neither 
Omar nor Abu Bekr had any authority 
over the Monassir, and that Lekalik and 
Moussa had only retired the night before 
to seek a better position in the Shukook 

Colvile was directed to inform the Va- 
keel immediately that General Earle dis- 
tinctly refused to acknowledge, and repu- 
diated, any promises made to Suleiman 
Wad Gamr; and that General Earle had 
been sent here to punish Suleiman and the 
other murderers of Colonel Stewart and the 
English and French Consuls, and to punish 
those who had made themselves accom- 
plices in the murder by not bringing in 
Suleiman as a prisoner. Colvile was fur- 
ther instructed to proceed at an early hour 



on the 1st to the Vakeel's camp, and bring 
him over to see General Earle, bringing over 
at the same time Omar and Abu Bekr. 

Colonel Butler was directed to recon- 
noitre to Birti with the mounted troops as 
early as possible in the morning of the ist; 
half a battalion of the Black Watch was 
directed to march towards Birti in support 
of his reconnaissance ; and all troops in rear 
of Gamra were ordered to advance by 




At the usual early hour on the ist February, ist Feb. 
the troops moved as ordered. Colonel 
Butler entered Birti, and found it deserted ; 
his scouts, pushing three miles farther, found 
traces of the enemy's retreat. As soon as 
his report arrived, the wing of the Black 
Watch, which had been pushed on in sup- 
port, was ordered back ; and as the leading 
Staffords arrived at Gamra, the other wing 
of the Black Watch was pushed on into the 
Rahami cataract, and a wing of the Corn- 
walls was ordered on into the rapids to 
follow the Staffords. The artillery and 
convoy were ordered up from their position 
in rear of Mishami to Gamra. 


Colonel Colvile brought over the Vakeel 
into our camp. Gaudet seemed incapable 
of believing we were so stupid as to be in 
earnest in refusing to capture Suleiman by 
promises of safety, with a view to putting 
him to death subsequently ; but at last our 
dull obstinacy overcame him, and he be- 
lieved. He still, however, had some hopes 
of catching Suleiman through the agency 
of Omar and Abu Bekr, and accordingly 
they were allowed to return to his camp, 
where Colvile also returned. Later in the 
day, however, he learned that Suleiman had 
fled beyond recall. He then threw up his 
hand in disgust, and withdrew his opposi- 
tion to our issuing the proclamation offering 
rewards for the apprehension of Suleiman 
and the blind man, which he had hitherto 
declared would remove the last hope of 
capturing either of them. 

His interview with the Vakeel ended. 
General Earle rode on to the advanced 
post of the Black Watch, and as soon as 
he received Colonel Butler's report that 


Birti was deserted, he rode on there. He 
discovered the boat of Colonel Stewart's 
steamer on the shore, and there came run- 
ning to him a man who announced himself 
to be Hassain, the stoker of the ill-fated 
steamer. Hassain gave the story of the 
wreck and the murder in detail. It differed 
little from the accounts so well known, and 
so often published ; but it fixed the date of 
the murder as Thursday, i8th September, 
and it more directly connected Suleiman 
with the murder than any account we had 
yet heard. He had made his way down 
the river after the murder, had been taken 
prisoner, and kept safe by Omar, Sulei- 
man's uncle, who had used him as a slave. 
We were anxious to keep him with us, that 
he might identify the site of the murder 
on our reaching Hebbeh ; but he was eager 
to return to his home in Upper Egypt, and 
soon made his escape. 

Our mounted troops fell back to Gam- 
ra, and that night we bivouacked as 
under : — 


Half the Black Watch in advance of 
Gamra in the Rahami cataract. 

Headquarters, mounted troops, Staffords, 
half the Black Watch, artillery, and convoy 
at Gamra. 

Half the Cornwalls at Warag, and half 
in the Umhaboah cataract between Warag 
and Mishami. 

The Gordons were through the Edermih 
cataract ; and Captain Orde, the boat officer 
sent to pilot them, reported that cataract 
far worse than when he had passed it 
before, owing to the considerable fall of 
the river. 

In reading through the rough diary of 
our daily proceedings, I am struck by the 
frequency of the expression applied to the 
rapids: '*The worst yet encountered," or 
**the most difficult yet met with." The 
fact is, that from Ooli to Birti the river was 
but a succession of rapids as bad as it was 
possible for the boats to pass. If there 
was one part worse than another, it was 
the series of rapids along the left bank 


between Gamra and Birti, known as the 
Rahami cataract. Into this half the Black 
Watch had already penetrated; and the 
remaining wing was sent forward early on ad Feb. 
the 2d February. 

All our boat officers were suffering in 
health from constant exposure to the sun, 
severe physical fatigue, and the incessant 
strain upon their energies. There was 
danger of their breaking down ; and ac- 
cordingly, two additional officers were se- 
lected and appointed to act as boat officers 
— Lieutenant Morris, D.C.L.I., and Lieu- 
tenant Livingstone of the Black Watch. 
The rapids immediately before us proved 
fully sufficient to tax their powers to the 

General Earle considered it important to 
occupy Birti at once; and as the news of 
the enemy's movements justified him in 
pushing forward the mounted troops alone. 
Colonel Butler was sent on with the Hus- 
sars and camel corps to form a zareeba 
and hold it. Having formed a zareeba. 

112 BIRTI. 

he reconnoitred five miles in advance, and 
came upon some baggage and provisions 
abandoned by the enemy. He saw no in- 
habitants. The river was smooth, resem- 
bling a Scotch loch ; the country along the 
shore exceedingly rough, with rocks coming 
down to near the river. 

A refugee from the rebel camp reported 
that the rebels had halted a day at the 
entrance to the Shukook pass, but when 
they heard that the English were in Birti 
they had retired farther. He had heard 
that Lekalik and Suleiman were going to 
Berber, and Moussa to the Robatab country. 
There had been many desertions since Birti 
was abandoned, and Suleiman, who had 
seen the proclamation offering a reward for 
his capture, was reported to be in great 
alarm. A report from Colonel Colvile, 
however, said that the information brought 
to the Vakeel was to the effect that the 
rebels were halted, and were holding the 
Shukook pass. 

The leading wing of the Black Watch 


was, early in the day, engaged in over- 
coming a most serious succession of bad 
rushes of water ; and its progress was very 
slow. Alleyne resolved to try, if pos- 
sible, to find another passage, and sent 
Colonel Denison, with his crew of voya- 
geurs, to examine another channel on the 
north of the great island opposite us. I 
rode on to Birti, and there found Colonel 
Denison, who had succeeded in passing 
through this northern channel, and reported 
it, though difficult, by no means so bad as 
the southern channel. Accordingly, on my 
return, all troops not already committed to 
the left bank were diverted into this chan- 
nel ; but seven companies of the Black 
Watch had advanced too far to return with 
safety. The troops worked till dusk, and 
then bivouacked by half-battalions on the 
high bank above their boats in the Rahami 
cataract. The Cornwalls, with headquarters, 
artillery, and convoy, bivouacked at Gamra. 
On the following day (3d) the Cornwalls 3d Feb. 

, entered the cataract ; and headquarters, 


114 BIRTI. 

with the artillery and convoy, marched to 
Birti, where, late in the evening, five com- 
panies of the Staffords arrived by the 
northern passage after twelve hours* unre- 
mitting toil. The whole of the remainder 
of the infantry was still struggling through 
the cataract ; but the General had not hesi- 
tated to push forward the convoy, there being 
no fear of attack, and the ground at Birti 
offering an admirable site for an encamp- 
ment, and ample supplies of growing forage. 
The Mudir s troops occupied the village 
of Hush el Jeruf on the right bank oppo- 
site our camp, and Colvile reported that his 
information was that the rebels had retired 
beyond the Shukook pass, that no resist- 
ance was to be expected there, that Sulei- 
man's movements were uncertain, and that 
it was doubtful whether he had or had not 
fled to Berber. One of our own spies, 
however, brought us in apparently more 
definite information. He said that Lekalik 
and Moussa were encamped at the far end 
of the Shukook pass ; that they had given 


Suleiman six days to collect his cattle and 
family at Salamat, promising to hold the 
pass for that time, but no longer ; and that 
then Suleiman was to go with Lekalik 
across the desert to Abu Egli, Moussa 
returning to his own country. 

The mounted troops patrolled some six 
miles to the front ; and Colonel Butler re- 
ported that he had found a site for a camp 
about this distance forward, which was 
equally suitable for one battalion or for 
two, with forage and good ground for 
mounted troops, and that there was nothing 
but clear water between it and Birti. The 
General therefore decided to push forward 
the mounted troops and the Staffords on 
the following day. 

Meanwhile the houses in Birti had been 
carefully searched by our intelligence offi- 
cers, and large quantities of papers found 
were examined. Some few relics of Stew- 
arts party were discovered, fragments of 
French and English books, a portion of an 
English ** field boot," the broken face and 


case of an aneroid barometer, which I have 
since ascertained was sold to Stewart an 
hour or two before his departure from Char- 
ing Cross with General Gordon. These 
were all found in Suleiman Wad Gamr's 
house. Every effort was made to ascertain 
correctly which houses, trees, and sakyehs 
were the property of Suleiman Wad Gamr, 
and of any prominent rebels ; and a list of 
them was prepared. 

For the first time since leaving Belal we 
found ourselves in a well-cultivated country. 
Birti was an oasis in the wilderness of 
hideous rocks, through which for ten days 
we had been wending our weary way. 
Both on the mainland and on the high hill 
island opposite there were many sakyehs^ 
and plentiful green crops. Our commis- 
sariat officers, with the camels of the trans- 
port company, were engaged in searching 
for grain. Some was found in the houses, 
and much more buried in pits on the 

The enemy's camp had been situated 


on uncultivated ground, some distance be- 
low (down-stream of) the village of Birti 
itself. A semicircle of low rocky hills sur- 
rounded it, the ends of the semicircle rest- 
ing on the river. In the midst of it there 
was a low rocky eminence; and on this, 
on the slopes of the hills, and on the flat 
ground below, the dervishes had constructed 
their shelters of boughs of trees and straw 
mats. One of the most curious features 
of the camp was the number of places of 
prayer of large size, prepared on spaces of 
flat ground by clearing away all stones, 
carefully marked out by lines of stones, 
with the same point towards the east, with 
which we are all familiar on oriental 
prayer-carpets. Judging by my experience 
of native camps built in a similar way in 
Ashanti, I should say there had been from 
1500 to 2000 men encamped here. We 
could see where the tents of the three 
chiefs had been, and the. stables of their 
horses. Nothing of any value was found 
in the camp : a few cooking-pots, walking- 


Sticks, one or two pieces of wood with 
verses from the Koran written on them, 
some inferior straw mats, were all that we 
could find. No arms of any kind were 
discovered ; but a thousand rounds of Rem- 
ington ammunition were found in one of the 
houses. The broad wady by which we had 
purposed to march to the attack led directly 
round the back of the camp to the culti- 
vated ground behind, and had wide easy 
passages leading right into the heart of the 
camp. It was a matter of sore regret to 
us not to have found the enemy here ; and 
it became evident to us that unless they 
deliberately stayed to meet us, we never 
could hope to overtake them. Already the 
head of the Black Watch had been three 
days in the Rahami cataract, and not a boat 
had reached Birti. 
4th Feb. On the morning of the 4th, the Staffords 
closed up at Birti, and six companies were 
sent on by river, their advance covered by 
the mounted troops. The leading com- 
panies arrived at the site selected by 


Colonel Butler, and by him christened 
Castle Camp, at noon. Butler recon- 
noitred along the bank for between three 
and four miles farther over exceedingly 
broken ground, where horses had frequently 
to be led in single file. A mile and a half 
above Castle Camp the rapids began again ; 
but Alleyne, who reconnoitred in his boat 
to their foot, and examined them, pro- 
nounced that they could be passed. A 
mile above Castle Camp, a large island 
(Dulka) began, and extended from three 
to four miles. On the opposite side of the 
island there appeared to be a stretch of 
clear water ; but Alleyne, who examined it, 
discovered much broken water and many 
islands beyond. 

During the day the Black Watch con- 
centrated at Birti. They had been four 
days in the cataract, seven miles in length, 
working from dawn to dusk. They had 
lost one man drowned, and two boats. 
The last two companies of the Staffords 
were also kept at Birti, five of their boats 

120 BIRTI. 

being in need of repair. They were all 
ordered to advance to Castle Camp on the 
5th ; but no orders were issued for any ad- 
vance beyond that place, pending Colonel 
Butler's reconnaissance report, which did 
not arrive till the following day. 

A party of Royal Engineers and two com- 
panies of the Black Watch, under instruc- 
tions of the intelligence officers, were em- 
ployed in destroying Suleiman Wad Gamr's 
houses, date-palms, and sakyehs. 

The Cornwalls were still in Rahami cat- 
aract, and news arrived that the Gordons 
had passed through Kab el Abd cataract. 
A boat officer was sent back from Birti to 
pilot them on, and to relieve the one who 
had brought them through Edermih and 
Kab el Abd. 

General Earle hoped now to be able to 
move the Cornwalls forward from Birti on 
the 6th ; and he therefore gave orders to 
Colonel Colvile to instruct the Vakeel to 
cross the Mudir's troops over on the 6th 
to the left bank, with a view to their re- 



maining in occupation of the Monassir 
country during our advance to Berber. 

The General also, thinking that the 
Vakeel could be of great use to him in his 
advance as far as Salamat by collecting 
information, directed Colvile to request 
him to cross over with an escort on the 
5th, in readiness to advance with our head- 
quarters on the 6th. Colvile was himself 
to come over, and to bring with him 
Suleiman's uncles and some other sheikhs 
who had surrendered to the Vakeel. This 
was in compliance with Lord Wolseley's 
orders that we were to take on to Berber 
all sheikhs who might come into our camp, 
as hostages for the good behaviour of their 
people in our rear. 

Colvile heliographed back that the Va- 
keel did not wish to go any farther, say- 
ing his doing so would be contrary to 
the Mudir's orders, and that he was tired. 
He wished, however, to speak to General 
Earle, and would come across next day, 
bringing Abu Bekr and Wad el Turki. 

122 BIRTI. 

He could not bring Omar, as he had run 
sth Feb. On the morning of the 5th General Earle 
sent over to say, through Colvile, that he 
was sorry the Vakeel found it inconvenient, 
but must insist on his coming over and 
accompanying the General to Salamat. In 
reply, the Vakeel wrote a letter saying his 
advancing to Salamat would be useless, as 
he did not know the country ; that he had 
orders from the Mudir to collect taxes at 
Hamdab and in the cataracts by the help 
of the Mudir's troops ; that if he advanced 
to Salamat, their collection would be de- 
layed. He could not disobey the Mudir's 
orders ; and he thought his remaining where 
he was with the troops would have a good 
effect, preventing the Monassir from re- 

General Earle still insisting upon his 
point, the Vakeel at last gave way, con- 
senting to bring his troops over, and to 
accompany the General, but asserting it 
would be impossible for him to start until 


the 8th. General Earle then consented to 
give him an interview, and he came over 
to our camp. He protested with such 
apparent show of reason the utter useless- 
ness of his going to Salamat, that General 
Earle consented to allow him to remain at 
Birti with the Mudir s troops, on condition 
that they crossed over on the morrow. 
To this the Vakeel consented promptly ; 
and General Earle telegraphed to Lord 
Wolseley, asking him to urge the Mudir 
to insist on their remaining at Birti, at least 
till we should reach Abu Hamed. 

With him the Vakeel had brought Abu 
Bekr, Suleiman Wad Gamr's uncle, and 
Wad el Turki ; and they now remained in 
our camp. It was known that neither Abu 
Bekr nor Omar had been on friendly terms 
with Naaman, Suleiman's father, and they 
were not supposed to be on friendly terms 
with Suleiman himself; but a very com- 
promising letter was found on Abu Bekr's 
person, written shortly after the murder by 
Suleiman, bidding Abu Bekr come to the 

124 BIRTI. 

council to be held, and speaking of having 
been occupied with the disposal of the 
prisoners from the steamer. However, 
Abu Bekr had come in under a promise of 
safety ; and as he was not actively a partic- 
ipator in the murder, we were able to treat 
him kindly, and use him as a guide. 

Abd el Rahman Wad el Turki was a 
sheikh of the Shagiyeh tribe. He had 
fought against the Mudir's troops at Deb- 
beh and at Korti, having raised a small 
force. After the defeat at Korti, he had 
retired to the rocks above Edermih cata- 
ract, and had collected another force there. 
He had remained there till our advance, 
when he retired to Birti, and joined the 
Robatab under Moussa, bringing with him 
a contingent of about lOO men. He was a 
great partisan of the Mahdi. 

Colonel Butler's reconnaissance reports 
having arrived during the night of the 4th. 
General Earle informed him, on the morn- 
ing of the 5th, that he did not wish any 
advance in boats beyond Castle Camp 


until the two channels in front had been 
more thoroughly examined. '' Lieut. -Colonel 
AUeyne/* the instructions run, ** should push 
boat-reconnaissance up both channels until 
he has discovered which is the best, and 
should examine the ground with a view to 
sites for camping, while you are making an 
extended reconnaissance towards the front." 
The Black Watch and remainder of the 
Staffords were sent on to Castle Camp, and 
Colonel Butler was told to order the ad- 
vance of the Staffords on the following day 
to such point as he might consider best 
after reconnaissance and consultation with 
AUeyne. Butler was requested to make 
his reconnaissance early, so that his report 
might arrive before sundown, as no further 
orders would be issued till it arrived. With 
General Earle's memorandum, a boy, who 
had been captured in the Mahdi's uniform, 
and who said that he had deserted from 
the rebel camp at Shukook, was sent to act 
as a guide. 

While the Staffords and Black Watch 

126 BIRTI. 

were advancing to Castle Camp, the Corn- 
walls were arriving at Birti ; and as they 
arrived, they were employed completing the 
destruction of the houses, palm-trees, and 
sakyehs of Suleiman Wad Gamr, his uncle 
Omar, and other prominent rebels. Noth- 
ing is easier than to destroy a sakyeh, its 
timber and rope burning freely. We 
found that by an occasional charge of gun- 
cotton, and by the free use of pickaxes, we 
could rapidly level the largest mud -built 
house to the ground. But the destruction 
of palm-trees is a difficult matter. The 
tough fibrous bark blunts the axes, and the 
tree will not burn freely ; nevertheless some 
280 date-palms were cut down or utterly 
destroyed by fire. 

The Commissariat continued their search 
for grain ; and it was reported to me that 
our horses were now rationed with grain 
up to the 6th March, and our natives with 
flour to 23d March, without counting six tons 
of unground wheat to be used for either 
natives or horses as most required. From 


Hamdab to Birti no supplies of any kind, 
except growing forage, had been obtain- 
able either by capture or purchase. The 
country had been a desolate waste; the 
people had buried their grain in the desert, 
and driven off their cattle. By no offers 
could they be induced to bring even milk 
for sale, and by no promise of wage could 
they be tempted to engage in our service 
as labourers. 

That afternoon, about four o'clock, a ci- 
pher-telegram arrived from General Wood, 
who, we thus learned, was acting as Chief 
of the Staff in place of Sir R. Duller. 
General Earle and I deciphered it to- 
gether. It ran thus : ''4th Feb., 8.50 p.m. — 
I am ordered by Lord Wolseley to inform 
you that, to his deep regret, Khartoum was 
found by Wilson to be in possession of 
enemy. Wilson in returning was wrecked, 
but steamer has gone for him, and there is 
no apparent danger for him. You are to 
halt where you are until further orders/' 

It is needless to say what we felt. Any 

128 BIRTI. 

thought for ourselves was swallowed up in 
grief for what we could only interpret to 
mean Gordon s certain death. Both of us 
felt, too, how great the shock would be to 
Lord Wolseley ; and to me there was a 
peculiar sting in the fact of this blow com- 
ing upon the anniversary of the capture of 
Coomassie. But action had to be at once 
taken, and immediate orders were sent to 
Colonel Butler that none of his troops were 
to move without further orders, — that he 
was to patrol with small bodies of cavalry 
only, and hold all his troops ready to move 
at short notice. Colvile was instructed that 
the Mudir s troops were not to cross on the 
morrow; and, convinced in his own mind, 
as I was in mine, that we should be at once 
recalled. General Earle would not bring the 
Gordon Highlanders to Birti, but sent back 
his aide-de-camp with orders to them to close 
up at Gamra, construct a zareeba, and halt 
there till further orders. The officer sent 
with the order failed to find them, as they 
had not reached Gamra, where he fully ex- 


pected they would be ; and darkness came 
on before he could go farther. The order, 
however, reached them on the following 
morning early. The contents of the tele- 
gram were kept strictly secret, no one but 
General Earle and myself knowing the 
cause of the orders to halt. 

The evening brought us the report of 
Colonel Butler's reconnaissance. It has a 
singular interest by the light of subsequent 
events. He had proceeded in the direction 
of the Shukook pass, getting out to the river 
whenever practicable. He had ascended a 
high range of hills near the upper end of the 
large island (Dulka) about six to seven miles 
distant from his camp — a range which he 
described as continued across the several 
branches of the river, its highest point being 
attained in a large dome-shaped hill on the 
island of Boni, which overlaps Dulka. For 
more than an hour previously, the native boy 
we had sent him had constantly been inform- 
ing him that Shukook was only a very short 

distance ahead — on several occasions point- 



ing out what he called the entrance to the 
pass, amid the rugged surrounding rocks. 
Now, however, from the top of the hill he 
pointed out a place two miles distant as the 
real Shukook, and asserted that a lower 
range lying between him and it was im- 
mediately over the enemy's camp. Colonel 
Butler had found one or two sites which 
would do for a camp. The ridge which he 
had ascended was that on which, five days 
later, we fought the action of Kirbekan. 

Alleyne had proceeded up the southern 
channel to the foot of the rapids, and then 
walked on the shore of the island nearly 
two miles farther. He pronounced the 
channel practicable. The northern channel 
was a maze of islands, rocks, and rapid 

In acknowledging his instructions not to 
move till further orders, Butler reported 
later that his camel-corps patrol had fallen 
in with the enemy, exchanged shots, brought 
in a prisoner, and captured some camels, 
goats, and cattle. We afterwards found 


they had come across a party of armed vil- 
lagers tending their flocks in a desert wady. 
Before the arrival of the telegram telling 
us of the fall of Khartoum, a long telegram 
had been sent to Lord Wolseley detailing 
the position of the troops and the latest 
news of the enemy. General Earle said 
in this that he did not anticipate resistance 
this side of Abu Hamed, and would push 
on as rapidly as possible, consistently with 
the necessary precautions. " The road be- 
yond this,*' he said, " is as bad as the river 
— a tangled mass of rocks, quite unsuited 
for mounted troops, and affording neither 
good anchorage nor good ground for bivou- 
acs.'* We had informed Colonel Rundle at 
Korosko of our advance beyond Birti hav- 
ing commenced ; and in addition to our 
previous urgent demands for boat-repairing 
materials and paint, horse-shoes and nails, 
to be sent to meet us at Abu Hamed, we 
now added a moving appeal for trousers, 
telegraphing : ** Men's and many officers' 
trousers in rags ; not sufficient for decency." 

132 BIRTI. 

Lord Wolseley was now informed that his 
telegram had been received, and that his in- 
structions were being carried out ; and Rundle 
was advised that the probable date of our 
arrival at Salamat, which we had given as 
the loth February, must now be postponed. 
6th Feb. Early on the 6th I rode over to Colonel 
Butler's camp, and, by General Earless per- 
mission, told him, under the seal of secrecy, 
the contents of yesterday's telegram. General 
Earle rode back to Gamra and visited the 
Gordon Highlanders. 

All the troops had a day of thorough rest, 
much needed after the unending labours of 
the past fortnight. It gave them the oppor- 
tunity of washing their clothes and trying to 
patch the particoloured rags they were wear- 
ing as trousers. General Earle talked over 
with me the arrangements to be made for 
the return to Korti, which we confidently 
expected would be ordered ; and we sent a 
party of the Egyptian camel corps back to 
Abu Dom to act as carriers of messages, 
requesting the commandants there to send 


US all messages from Lord Wolseley in 
duplicate — one copy by two of our own 
camel-men, one copy by a native messenger. 
And as our stay at Birti might possibly 
be prolonged, we made sanitary arrange- 
ments for supply of water, &c., as for a 
standing camp. 

In the evening Colvile reported that a 
man had just come in with the news that the 
enemy, who were in Shukook, had advanced 
to Kirbekan ; that they were not a thousand 
strong, and had about 1 50 rifles. They had 
no outposts at night, but sent out a patrol 
before daylight. He said they had chosen 
their present camp as being easier to escape 
from than Shukook in case of defeat. This 
information was at once sent to Colonel 

On the 7th the troops were employed in im- 7th Feb. 
proving the sanitary condition and watering 
arrangements of the camps. A quantity of 
grain was discovered by our foraging-parties 
on Ishishi island, and was brought over to 
our camp. We had now not only full loads 

134 BIRTI. 

of grain for all our camels, but were able 
out of the surplus to issue a small grain- 
ration to the camels which had hitherto 
been subsisting on growing crops only. 
Our camels were in fair condition, but from 
want of sufficient work were becoming soft, 
and the saddle-galls from which these un- 
fortunate animals seem seldom or never 
free were in consequence not so healthy. 
We found it necessary to exercise the camels 
regularly, which had a better effect on their 
health than even the issue of grain. Butler 
sent out patrols to the scene of the camel 
corps skirmish of the 5th, without finding 
any trace of the enemy. 
8th Feb. On the morning of the 8th we sent to the 
Chief of the Staff a telegram stating the 
exact state of our supplies, based upon re- 
turns obtained during the halt. We told 
him that the total strength drawing rations 
last night was 2966 officers and men, and 
fixed the exact number of days* supply of 
each article remaining for that number ; and 
we requested him so to arrange that the 


supplies sent by Rundle to Korosko should 
equalise the various articles of food. We 
added that we had thirty days' grain for 
our 140 horses, but none for our 580 
camels; that the latter had hitherto done 
well on the green forage of the country, 
but that a prolonged halt would make it 
very difficult to feed them. Soap we espe- 
cially asked for to be sent up by first con- 
voy. We had only thirty days' supply 
remaining; and many of the boats were 
full of lice, which were infesting the clothes 
of the men, and in some cases of the 




8th Feb. At 8 A.M. Oil Sunday the 8th, General 
Earle received a message from General 
Wood, dated i A.M., 7th: " Lord Wolseley,'* 
it said, *' is communicating with Government 
as to future operations, but he wishes you to 
push on to Abu Hamed, and await further 
orders there." 

Orders were at once issued and despatched 
for the Gordons to advance immediately by 
the northern channel to Birti, and for the 
Staffords, covered by the mounted troops, 
to advance from Castle Camp to a point to 
be selected by Colonel Butler. General 
Earle did not wish to commit more than 


one battalion to the rapids, until their nature 
was more thoroughly known, and therefore 
he left the Black Watch at Castle Camp. 
Wishing to close up the Gordons nearer to 
the Corn walls, he left the latter also for the 
day at Birti. The Black Watch and a wing 
of the Cornwalls were ordered to advance 
on the 9th, and the Mudir's troops to cross 
over to the left bank. 

I rode over with the orders to Castle 
Camp, and found the men in their red coats, 
after church parade. Within half an hour 
Alley ne and the first boats were off, and 
the cavalry scouts were advancing along 
the bank. 

Butler, taking command of the whole ad- 
vanced guard, left the Staffords at the head 
of the first rapid, and directed Colonel Eyre 
to make his camp on Dulka island. He 
then advanced with Major Flood and twenty 
Hussars along the left bank. At 2.30 p.m. 
his scouts fell in with the enemy, posted on 
some rocky ground, all of which had been 
patrolled by our mounted troops on the 5th. 


Their right rested on the river, and they 
were dotted about clumps of rock com- 
manding the track by which the cavalry 
were advancing. Our men took up a posi- 
tion opposite them and fired a few volleys, 
which made them leave the front faces of 
the rocky knolls, but they still held their 
sides and summits. About 4 p.m. four ex- 
ploring boats arrived by river just below the 
cavalry, and Butler landed two boats' crews 
and fired some volleys. Colonel Butler esti- 
mated those who had shown themselves as 
about 200 in number. Only about ten rifles 
had opened fire, but he had seen many 
spear-heads. At the approach of sunset 
Butler retired to Castle Camp, the enemy 
following him as far as the most advanced 
position which he had held. The boats fell 
back to Colonel Eyres camp on Dulka 

Colonel Butler reported the position occu- 
pied by the enemy as being about two miles 
from Colonel Eyre's camp on Dulka island, 
with the river between ; and he considered 


that the Staffords could .be moved to the 
spot where he engaged the enemy in less 
than two hours, and the Black Watch from 
Castle Camp in six hours. Colonel Butler 
said that he would cover the ground for the 
Staffords landing next day with his mounted 
troops, and then move the battalion to the 
left bank, bringing the Black Watch also to 
the same place, unless otherwise ordered. 
He asked for two guns to be sent early 
next day to Castle Camp ; and in his report 
stated that the enemy's right and rear was 
within easy range of Dulka island, so that 
guns taken across the river by boat, and 
carried about two miles along the island, 
could take the position in reverse. He sent 
his staff ofificer, Lieutenant Pirie, with the 

On receipt of this report at 10 p.m., and 
after questioning Lieutenant Pirie, General 
Earle decided that he would himself recon- 
noitre the position on the following day. 
He ordered the two guns asked for to Castle 
Camp, but did not wish them sent over to 


Dulka island. He told Colonel Butler that 
he would leave Birti at 6.30 a.m. for Castle 
Camp, and directed that an officer should 
be left there to guide him to the position 
where he would find Colonel Butler. He 
approved of the proposal to move the Staf- 
fords and Black Watch to the open ground 
in rear of the position opposite the enemy 
occupied by the cavalry ; and impressed the 
importance of great care in effecting the 
crossing of the Staffbrds, so that it should 
be impossible for them to be attacked while 
landing, in case the enemy should advance 
and compel our cavalry to retire, 
9th Feb. On the morning of the 9th, the following 
instructions were sent to Colonel Colvile : 
the Mudir's troops, after crossing the river, 
were to take up a position out of rifle-range 
of our Birti camp. Headquarters were about 
to advance, but half a battalion of the Corn- 
walls would remain at Birti, where the Gor- 
dons were expected to arrive that day. 
Should they do so, all our troops would 
clear out of Birti on the morning of the 


loth, and Colonel Colvile should himself 
then join General Earle's headquarters. 
Before leaving, Colvile was to inform the 
Vakeel that he and the Mudir's troops were 
to remain in occupation of the Monassir 
country till further orders, — General Earle 
relying upon the Vakeel to obtain and for- 
ward to us supplies of cattle and grain, to 
send us information of the movements and 
intentions of the enemy, and to forward our 
messages to and from Abu Dom. 

By 1 1 A.M. the Mudir's troops had crossed 
and bivouacked opposite their former camp. 
Shortly after landing, they found the moun- 
tain-gun from Colonel Stewards steamer. 
It was spiked, and the sight, spokes of one 
wheel, and cap-squares were missing. 

General Earle's start from Birti was 
somewhat delayed ; and when we moved on 
from Castle Camp, the officer sent to guide 
us unfortunately could not find the way, and 
lost himself amongst the rocks, so that we 
did not reach the ground where the Staffords 
were to encamp until nearly mid-day. 


Meanwhile the mounted troops had 
pushed forward, and had occupied with 
their advanced posts the rocky hillocks, or 
koppies, as they are called in South Africa, 
which they had occupied yesterday, and 
found the enemy still in the same position 
as before. Colonel Butler then sent for the 

General Earle, accompanied by his staff, 
then personally examined the enemy s posi- 
tion from the rocks upon which our cavalry 
vedettes were posted, about 800 yards 
distant. Immediately in front of us the 
enemy held some rocky koppies about 50 
to 80 feet in height, their right being di- 
rectly over the river. Between two of these 
koppies ran the road from Birti to Salamat. 
We could see that they had built stone 
sconces, or breastworks, among the rocks, 
and completely commanded with their rifles 
both road and river. They must clearly be 
turned out of that before we could advance 
to Abu Hamed. 

Running parallel to the low rocky koppies 


above-named, but to the enemy*s left rear, 
and some 600 yards behind the koppies, and 
ending abruptly 600 yards from the river, 
was a very remarkable ridge about 300 feet 
high, presenting on the side next to us a 
steep slope like the moraine of a glacier, 
out of which at the summit projected a 
ridge of white marble rocks, as the teeth 
project from the jawbone of a skeleton. 
This was the ridge ascended by Colonel 
Butler on the 5th. All along its summit we 
could see men with flags and spear-heads 
moving about among the rocks. Still it 
was evident that these two positions were 
not capable of holding a large body of 
men ; and we were disposed to believe them 
held by an outpost some 300 to 400 strong, 
and that we should find the enemy emerge 
in force from behind the hills on our ad- 
vancing to attack them. 

There were four ways of attacking the 
position. First, the direct attack upon the 
koppies, aided perhaps by flanking fire 
from Dulka island. This would involve 


heavy loss, and would be the least effectual, 
as the enemy, when beaten, would retreat 
directly along the river, through the broken 
ground, to the Shukook pass. Secondly, 
an advance through the valley, between the 
range of koppies and the marble-topped 
high ridge. This would turn the koppies ; 
and General Earle inclined to the belief, in 
which I shared, that if once the enemy in 
the koppies found themselves outflanked, 
and liable to have their retreat cut off, they 
would retreat. Thirdly, to advance upon 
the marble-topped ridge, and storm it, 
bringing fire from it to bear afterwards 
upon the koppies below, while we sent a 
force to attack them. Fourthly, provided 
the country would lend itself to the idea, 
to move to our right under cover of the 
broken ground, and march completely round 
the marble-topped ridge, which was only 
about a mile long, and move round its rear 
to the attack both of it and of the koppies. 
Colonel Butler was sent at 4 p.m. to make 
a wide detour round the ridge, and see if 


there was a fair road for infantry and camels 
by which we could thus turn the position. 
On his return he reported that we could 
turn the position by an easy march through 
a wide sandy wady, and that he had noted 
a road by which we could approach the 
wady from our camp without exposing our- 
selves to any great extent. This latter 
plan of advance was therefore decided up- 
on by the General ; and as the enemy did 
not appear to be in great force, it was re- 
solved to attack him the following morning, 
with such troops as we had ready to our 

Sending over to Castle Camp for the two 
guns to come on, and also for the senior 
medical officer, with such assistance as he 
might require, and having informed him of 
what was in contemplation, we then pro- 
ceeded to organise the details for the mor- 
row's fight. 

By sunset the whole of the Staffords, with 

two sections of the field -hospital, and the 

headquarters and seven companies of the 




Black Watch, had reached their bivouac, a 
short mile from the enemy's position. One 
company of the Black Watch was absent. 
Having taken the wrong channel, and been 
fired upon from the right bank, it had re- 
turned to Castle Camp, and bivouacked 
there with the wing of the Cornwalls, who 
arrived there from Birti. The two guns 
arrived, and the senior medical officer, with 
his staff and certain necessary appliances ; 
and the following dispositions for the attack 
were made. 

One company of the Black Watch, under 
Lieut-Colonel Eden, with Major Sandwith 
as his staff officer, was to remain in the 
zareeba, to guard the boats and baggage. 
All infantry baggage to be packed in the 
boats by 6.30 a.m. ; all other baggage and 
baggage-animals to be parked on the low 
shore, in front of the boats. All headquarter 
servants, departmental and unarmed men, to 
remain with the baggage. The boat of the 
Royal Navy, with its Catling gun so dis- 
posed as to sweep the shore and river up- 


Stream, to be under Lieut-Colonel Eden's 

The Staffords and six companies Black 
Watch, with the two guns, to parade in suf- 
ficient time to march off the ground at 
seven o'clock. Troops in red, Highlanders 
in kilts. The men to breakfast before par- 
ade, and carry one day's rations of meat and 
biscuit. All water-bottles to be full on 
marching off. Each man to carry sixty 
rounds of ammunition, and each battalion 
to have two camels, each carrying four 
boxes of reserve ammunition, making 4800 
rounds of reserve ammunition for each bat- 
talion. The guns to have two ammunition- 
camels for each gun. Commanding officers, 
two wing field-officers, and the adjutant of 
each battalion, to be mounted. 

Each battalion to have eight stretchers 
carried by sixteen of its unarmed men, with 
four men in reserve as bearers. A detach- 
ment of the field - hospital, with three 
camels carrying surgical and hospital equip- 
ment, to parade with the infantry ; also two 


camels to carry water for the field -hos- 

The Hussars and camel corps to parade 
separately under Colonel Butler. 

General Brackenbury, Major Boyle, Major 
Slade, Captain Beaumont, and Lieutenant St 
Aubyn to accompany General Earle. All 
other staff officers to remain with the bag- 
gage, except Lieut. -Colonel Alley ne, who 
was instructed to take command of two com- 
panies of the Staffords and the two guns, 
and to occupy with them the rocky position 
held yesterday by our cavalry outposts, and 
to hold the enemy in check in front, attract- 
ing their attention in that direction while 
our flank movement was in progress. 

During the afternoon the enemy opened 
fire from a small island above Dulka island, 
and one of their shots having struck one of 
our vedettes, a company of the Staffords 
was sent across in boats to occupy the 
island and bivouack there. To reach the 
island, the boats had to ascend a nasty 


rapid just opposite our bivouac. All fires 
were put out at "lights out," and it was 
ordered that none should be lit before rd- 
veilU on the following day. 

About 3 P.M. a telegram arrived from 
Lord Wolseley to the following effect — 
dated 9 a.m., 8th : The Government have 
decided that the Mahdi's power at Khar- 
toum must be overthrown. This most 
probably means a campaign here next cold 
weather, and certainly the retention in the 
Soudan of all troops now here. A strong 
force of all arms goes as soon as possible to 
Suakim to crush Osman Digma. We must 
now take Berber. BuUer will now take 
Metemmeh. Let me know early the date 
you calculate upon reaching Berber, so that 
BuUer's force may co-operate with you. 

At 5.45 P.M. a long letter arrived from 
Lord Wolseley to General Earle, dated 2 
P.M., 7th. It was almost entirely in cipher, 
and I sat up till late in the night decipher- 
ing its contents. In it Lord Wolseley in- 



formed General Earle of the questions he 
had addressed to the Cabinet, the replies 
he had received, and his further queries. 
It amplified the contents of his telegram 
received that afternoon. It told us that he 
had not yet heard of Wilson's safety ; and 
in it there was this sentence : " I congratu- 
late you upon the progress you have made, 
although I am naturally very sorry the 
enemy have not tested the temper of your 
steel. However, let us hope their courage 
may be stiffened by the fall of Khartoum, 
and that you may strike them hard yet 
before you reach Berber." Hope soon to 
be realised ! 

General Earle talked this letter over with 
me until a very late hour, and decided not 
to reply to it till after the action of the 
morrow. Two of our spies came in, and 
professed to have been unable to see any 
trace of the enemy in the position they had 
held during the day ; and we retired to rest, 
half fearing they might again give us the 


slip, as they had done ten days before at 
Birti. But we were needlessly anxious. 
We did not then know that their courage 
had been stiffened — that they had heard 
of the fall of Khartoum. 





The night passed without incident. At 
loth Feb. the earliest dawn our cavalry vedettes were 
again in their position of yesterday, and as 
soon as the growing daylight enabled them 
to see clearly, they reported the enemy still 
in position — good news which soon spread 
through the camp. The men were tired of 
the delays caused by the precautions neces- 
sary in the presence of an enemy who 
escaped just as we were within striking 
distance ; and those holding responsible 
positions in the force felt it to be of the 
utmost importance to meet the enemy soon, 
and get the chance of teaching them a 
lesson which would prevent their meeting 

THE FIGHT. 1 53 

US again for some time, thus clearing the 
way for our advance to the main objective 
of our column — Berber. 

The company on outpost-duty at Dulka 
island was recalled, baggage was parked 
according to orders, the naval boat was 
placed in position, the camels were loaded 
to accompany the column. The men 
breakfasted and fell in on parade, looking 
smart and thoroughly workmanlike. After 
inspection, Lieut. -Colonel Eden's company 
of the Black Watch was set to work form- 
ing a small zareeba ; two companies of the 
Staffordshire Regiment were told off to 
escort the two guns under Lieut-Colonel 
Alleyne; and as soon as we saw the dis- 
positions for defence of the zareeba fairly 
complete, and Alleyne's two companies and 
guns marched off to occupy the ground held 
by our cavalry outposts, with orders not to 
open fire till we had reached the outer 
flank of the great ridge round which we 
were to move, the column marched off. It 
was then about a quarter past seven. Just 


before we left the zareeba, General Earle 
directed me to send back to inform the 
English correspondent of a foreign news- 
paper, who had made his way up with the 
Gordon Highlanders, that, owing to the 
necessity for economising all food for man 
and beast, and in view of all spare whaler 
accommodation being required for transport 
of sick, he could not allow any civilian 
correspondents to accompany the column. 
We marched in line of half-battalion 
columns, at an interval of two companies, 
the Staffords (six companies) leading, the 
Black Watch (six companies) following. 
Company stretcher-bearers followed their 
own companies. The field-hospital camels 
and reserve small-arm ammunition camels 
(nine and one spare), were massed between 
the Staffords and Black Watch, and moved 
with the left column. The General's object 
in this formation was to enable each column 
to take advantage of practicable ground for 
marching as long as we were moving over 
the rocks, but at the same time to be able, 


by closing the columns together, to get 
rapidly into formation ready to form square, 
or rather oblong, with the stretcher-bearers 
and camels inside. 

Colonel Butler led the column. The 
first mile of our road lay in a north-easterly 
direction over broken but hard ground ; 
then we reached a wide wady of loose 
deep sand, in which progress was slow 
and fatiguing, and followed it till we 
reached the farthest end of the marble- 
topped ridge. We then, at about half-past 
eight, halted for a few minutes, allowing a 
few men to fall out. Not a shot had been 
fired at us as yet, though our column must 
have been visible from the ridge at more 
than one point in its march. While here 
we heard Alleyne's guns open fire. 

Our front as we marched had been 
covered by the cavalry ; our left flank by 
the Egyptian camel corps, who lined the 
edge of the broken ground opposite to the 
high ridge. Colonel Butler now went on 
with the cavalry scouts, and just as we were 


about to continue our march, sent back to 
say that the enemy were in sight on some 
low rocky hills, to the number of two or 
three hundred, and immediately afterwards 
a second message to say the enemy were 
retiring. We now marched round the 
eastern end of the ridge, and turning sharp 
to the left, marched through a rocky valley 
in the direction of the river, with the high 
ridge on our left. In front of us was a low 
rocky range running at right angles to the 
high ridge on which Colonel Butler had 
seen the enemy. The enemy now opened 
fire on us from the high ridge at about 
9. 1 5 A.M., and we had two or three men hit. 
General Earle, after a short farther advance, 
halted the column under cover, and sent 
forward one company of the Staffords to 
the low range in front, and another com- 
pany (C) to line the rocks on our left, and 
keep down the fire from the high ridge. 
The enemy not appearing immediately in 
front, the column advanced about 300 
yards into a valley with rocky ridges on 

THE FIGHT. 1 57 

every side, leaving C Company of the 
Staffords engaged with the enemy on the 
high ridge. The fire from this ridge now 
becoming hotter, General Earle directed 
Colonel Eyre to take two companies of his 
regiment and endeavour to take the ridge 
by its western shoulder. They advanced 
under a heavy fire, and climbed about one 
third of the way up the shoulder, till they 
reached a cluster of rocks under which they 
obtained partial shelter. 

At the same time two companies of the 
Black Watch descended the rocky ridge to 
our right front, from whence the river was 
visible about six hundred yards away; and 
we could see parties of the enemy making 
their way to it, and swimming over to the 
opposite bank. It being then evident that 
the only serious opposition we had to expect 
was from the enemy remaining on the high 
marble-topped ridge, and on the koppies, 
whence fire was now opened on us. General 
Earle ordered two companies of the Black 
Watch to move to their right front towards 



the river- bank, and establish themselves 
there, so as to prevent all retreat in this 
direction ; and the three remaining com- 
panies of the Staffords and the four re- 
maining companies of the Black Watch to 
advance and swing round to the left, so as 
to face the koppies. 

It now became evident, from the fire 
which was directed upon us from the 
koppies, that the enemy had a considerable 
body of riflemen in position there, and the 
two companies of the Black Watch which 
had been sent down to the river were 
ordered to advance in line along the river- 
bank towards the koppies, clearing it of the 

The remainder of the Black Watch and 
Staffords took up a position on the rocks, at 
about 800 yards, and brought a heavy fire 
to bear upon the koppies. Little by little 
they advanced from one vantage-point to 
another, till they attained a position on the 
nearest rocks to the koppies, about 400 
yards distant. Between them and the 


koppies there was now only open ground, 
swept by the enemy's fire. 

General Earle now ordered the two 
companies of the Black Watch nearest the 
river, who had by this time come up abreast 
of our main position, to advance along the 
shore of the low Nile, under cover of the 
high bank, and take the koppie nearest the 
river from its river flank. A company 
of the Staffords accompanied them, and 
advancing rapidly under cover of the river- 
bank, they seized the lowest rocks and then 
the summit of this koppie, driving out or 
killing the rebels who were there. Some 
of these attempted flight by the river in the 
direction of Colonel Alleyne s men and our 
zareeba ; a few escaped by swimming, but 
many were shot down by our men. From 
the summit of this koppie now in our hands, 
a flanking fire was brought to bear upon the 
two main central koppies. 

It was now evident that nothing more 
was to be done but to assault the position, 
and the order was about to be given when 



a body of the enemy, one of whom carried 
a flag, the rest being armed with spears, 
descended boldly from the heights in front, 
and charged towards the nearest companies 
of the Black Watch, which were somewhat 
advanced towards our left front, under 
Colonel Green. The troops never moved, 
but the gallant Arabs were received with 
so withering a fire from all sides that those 
who were not killed turned and fled towards 
the river. A few gained it. Our men, far 
from fearing the rush, stood up to meet it, 
in some cases even advanced; and they 
could with difficulty be restrained from 
leaving the ranks to follow the fugitives 
along the river. 

This episode over, the order for the 
assault was given, and well responded to. 
I had myself previously carried the orders 
to the troops on the koppie by the river 
to advance simultaneously with the front 
assault, and had returned to General Earle 
to the front of the position previous to the 
enemy's charge. General Earle ordered 


the assault to be made; and then, with pipes 
playing, the Black Watch charged over the 
open ground and stormed the koppies, not 
stopping till they had crowned the highest 
rocks. The troops on the river-side koppie 
also well carried out their orders, advanc- 
ing from the flank and seizing the koppie 
nearest to them. Such of the enemy as 
still remained fought to the last, and were 
killed to a man. 

The assault was over, and the two main 
koppies were in our hands ; the troops were 
searching the sconces and holes among the 
rocks ; and there was, as there must always 
be after such an effort, some need to collect 
them and form them up for fresh work. 
Between the crests of the two main koppies 
there was a depression forming a small flat 
plateau, on which was built a stone hut 
some ten feet square, with a thatched roof. 
General Earle was engaged in forming up 
the men in the ranks on this plateau, not 
more than ten yards from the hut, when a 

sergeant of the Black Watch said, ** There 




are a lot of men in that hut, and they have 
just shot one of our men." General Earle 
ordered the roof to be set on fire ; but on 
its being said that there was a quantity 
of ammunition in the hut, he ordered the 
roof to be pulled down, and himself ap- 
proached the hut. I was close to him, and 
said, " Take care, sir ; the hut is full of 
men." Our men had set the roof on fire, 
and my attention was attracted for a mo- 
ment by seeing a native who rushed out from 
the side door of the hut bayoneted by one 
of our men. As I turned my head back 
towards the General, I saw him fall, shot 
through the head from a small square win- 
dow in the hut, close to which he had ap- 
proached. He lived only a few minutes, 
tended to the last by his aide-de-camp 
Lieutenant St .Aubyn, and by the senior 
medical officer, Surgeon-Major Harvey. 

The command having now devolved 
upon me, I directed two companies of the 
Black Watch to remain as a picket on the 
koppies; and I had sent to the Staffords 


with a view to assembling them, when it 
was brought to my knowledge that the two 
companies of the Staffords sent to take the 
high ridge had failed as yet to reach higher 
than the cluster of rocks about one-third of 
the way up ; that Colonel Eyre had been 
killed, shot through the heart ; that Captain 
Horsburgh and Lieutenant Colborne had 
been severely wounded ; that their loss in 
men had been considerable ; that their am- 
munition was exhausted, except four rounds 
per man, which they had reserved ; and that 
the enemy was still holding the ridge. As- 
sembling, therefore, four companies of the 
Black Watch as a reserve at the foot of the 
koppies, I sent for Lieutenant-Colonel Beale, 
upon whom the command of the Staffords 
had devolved, and instructed him to take 
the remainder of his regiment, reinforce the 
two companies on the hill with troops and 
ammunition, and with the aid of the com- 
pany left to watch the hill early in the day, 
assault and take the position. The order 
was most admirably carried out. Ascend- 


ing the steep moraine-like hill by alternate 
rushes, the Staffords reached the rocky 
summit, and bayoneted the enemy, who 
remained there fighting to the very end. 

It was now about one o'clock, and the 
enemy were driven from their last position. 
Meanwhile, early in the day, Colonel But- 
ler, with the few Hussars at his disposal, had 
struck the river above the point where we 
first gained it, and had pursued scattered 
groups of Arabs who were retreating along 
the main river track. Half an hour later 
he gained the entrance to the Shukook 
pass, and in the centre of the rocky gorge 
there came upon the enemy's deserted 
camp, where he captured a number of 
standards, and some camels and donkeys. 
While there the enemy opened fire upon 
the Hussars from the surrounding hills, but 
without causing any casualties among our 
men. Colonel Butler sent back for camel- 
men to drive in the animals captured : the 
message did not reach me till after the 
fight, and the camel corps having then been 


fighting for the whole morning, I instructed 
Colonel Butler to return with the cavalry 
to camp. He had already anticipated this 
order, driving back some of the animals 
with the Hussars. 

The Egyptian camel corps under Major 
Marriott had done excellent service. They 
had at the commencement of the day taken 
up a position in front of the high ridge, and 
protected the flank of the infantry in its 
advance. In that position they remained 
throughout the day, assisting by their fire 
to keep down the fire from the heights, and 
shooting, or in some instances pursuing and 
capturing, the rebels who attempted to 
escape towards the east, along the southern 
slope of the hill. Their conduct was wit- 
nessed by the Staffords, who remained so 
long upon the shoulder of the hill, and was 
the theme of much praise. When the Staf- 
fords stormed the hill one Egyptian soldier 
charged up the hill, all alone, on their ex- 
treme right — a most gallant feat. They 
had two men killed and one wounded. 



Leaving, as already said, two companies 
of the Black Watch on the summit of the 
koppies, and sending two companies to 
bivouac on a high Nile island at the head 
of the rapid, about a mile and a half up the 
river, I ordered the remainder of the troops 
back to camp. 

During the action the wounded had been 
collected, as far as possible, by the stretcher- 
bearers into groups under shelter from fire ; 
dressing-stations had been established at 
successive points as we moved on ; and 
restoratives, such as beef-tea prepared on 
the field, champagne, and brandy, were ad- 
ministered to the wounded during and after 
the action. Owing to the nature of the 
ground, both medical officers and wounded 
had been frequently exposed to considerable 
cross-fire. The medical officers of corps 
had accompanied their men into action, and 
the medical officers of the dressing-station 
gave their services freely wherever most 
required. As soon as the action was over, 
additional men were told off as stretcher- 


bearers, and the wounded were brought 
into our camp. The bodies of General 
Earle, Colonel Eyre, and Colonel Coveney, 
were conveyed back to our camp ; the other 
brave dead were buried together by the 
river-bank, near the field where they had 

At sunset the bodies of General Earle, 
Colonel Eyre, and Colonel Coveney were 
' buried side by side in deep graves near the 
foot of a solitary palm-tree ; and the hill of 
Kirbekan echoed back the boom of the 
minute-guns paying their solemn tribute to 
the memory of three soldiers, each a type 
of what the English officer should be. 

Orders were then issued for the half- 
battalion of the Cornwalls, which had ar- 
rived in camp during the day, together with 
the two companies of the Staffords and the 
. two companies of the Black Watch which 
had not been engaged in the flank march, 
to advance by river in the morning, and 
occupy the position at the head of the 
rapid, relieving the two companies of the 


Black Watch there, and for the remainder 
of the Cornwalls who had reached Castle 
Camp to come on to our camp. I wished 
now to put the Cornwalls and Gordons in 
front ; but the latter, to my disappointment, 
had not got farther than Birti, their progress 
through the northern channel of the Ra- 
hami cataract having been, owing to the 
falling Nile, slower than that of the other 
troops who had traversed the same passage. 
They were ordered to come on as soon as 

It was a busy night. There was much to 
be thought of and arranged. I sent off a 
telegraphic summary and a written despatch, 
and a letter to Lord Wolseley, in which I 
said, *' Our troops having turned them out 
of these positions, must have a great effect 
upon the spirit of the enemy. I sincerely 
trust it may prevent our having to fight 
our way to Abu Hamed, as if we have 
many such fights as to-day, we shall be 
seriously embarrassed how to carry on our 


wounded. If it enables us to pass the 
Shukook pass, which is still before us, and 
to get through the rapids ahead without 
more fighting, it will indeed be a valuable 
day for us." 

We had not purchased our victory cheaply. 
General Earle, Colonel Eyre, Colonel Cove- 
ney, and nine men killed ; four officers and 
forty-four men wounded, made a total of 
sixty, — ^a serious loss in our little force of 
twelve hundred. It had been most difficult 
to estimate either the enemy s strength or 
his loss with accuracy. I do not believe that 
when we marched to attack the position there 
were more than about eight hundred men 
holding it. Half of these made their escape 
before we attacked ; a few more during the 
fight. The remainder were simply desperate 
men, resolved to fight to the last, and to 
sell their lives dearly. They were in what 
might fairly have been called an impregnable 
position, and they were thoroughly well 
armed, — a position out of which they could 


not have been dislodged by any but first- 
rate troops. We have all heard of ** a posi- 
tion which ten men could hold against a 
thousand." I honestly confess that the 
expression conveys exactly what was in my 
mind when first I saw the hills we had to 

In my despatch written that night, I gave 
the probable loss of the enemy as not less 
than a hundred and fifty. This I altered 
to two hundred after going over the ground 
next day with Colonel Butler. We counted 
sixty dead bodies on the main koppies, 
sixty-five on the razor-backed ridge ; others 
were lying below ; there were many whom 
we could not have seen ; many had been 
shot crossing the river : and I am satisfied 
now that the larger figure does not over- 
state the enemy's loss. 

Not less valuable than the effect of this 
action upon the enemy's morale was its 
effect upon the spirits of our own men. It 
inspired them with great confidence. The 



idea that unless in square formation they 
could not stand against Arabs had been to 
a certain extent prevalent : to-day the troops 
had learnt that they could beat their enemy 
in hand-to-hand combats in the rocks, fight- 
ing in loose order. 




nth Feb. On the morning of the nth, the troops 
began to pass through the troublesome 
rapid commencing opposite our camp, and 
a wing of the Corn walls, two companies 
of the Black Watch, and two of the Staf- 
fords — all troops which had not been en- 
gaged on the previous day — reached the 
high Nile island at Kirbekan, and camped 
there, relieving the companies of the Black 
Watch who had bivouacked there the pre- 
ceding night. The mounted troops covered 
the advance, and Butler reconnoitred to 
the entrance of, and some distance into, the 
Shukook pass, seeing no sign of any enemy. 
The other wing of the Cornwalls, the artil- 


lery and convoy, arrived in our camp oppo- 
site Dulka island, and the Gordons reached 
Castle Camp. 

Now was the time when a strong force of 
cavalry would have been invaluable. To 
push on after the enemy with cavalry, and 
at once seize and hold the upper end of the 
Shukook pass, before he could rally from 
his defeat, was the proper course to pursue. 
It could not be done with infantry, for 
the infantry were tied to their boats, and 
every man who marched a yard beyond his 
boat, had to be marched back again to it 
sooner or later. As for mounted troops, 
all that could be spared, after leaving the 
strictly necessary guards with the main 
camp, the artillery and convoy, were about 
sixty Hussars, and forty to fifty of the Egyp- 
tian camel corps ; and to push on so small 
a force to encamp at the far side of this 
long and difficult pass without any infantry 
support, would have been to court disaster. 
The mounted troops, therefore, fell back to 
the bivouac at Kirbekan. 


Slade examined nine prisoners whom we 
had taken in the action of yesterday, and 
reported that, from their statements, the 
enemy who had held the position consisted 
of 400 men of the Robatab tribe, under 
Sheikh Moussa Wad Abu Hegel ; 200 men 
from Berber, under Sheikh Ali Wad Hus- 
sein and Hamid Lekalik, cousin and brother 
respectively of Abdul Majid Wad el Leka- 
lik; 300 of the Monassir tribe, under Sheikh 
el Hagid ; and several slaves and villagers 
from their lands, — making a total of about 
1500 to 2000 men, of whom the Robatab 
and Berber men alone had held the position 
so stoutly defended. All the sheikhs above- 
named, with the exception of El Hagid, 
were killed during the action, Moussa's 
body having been identified by one of the 
prisoners. The main camp of the enemy 
was at the upper end of the Shukook pass, 
the camp taken by our mounted troops at 
the lower end of the pass being only an 
advanced post. The prisoners stated that 
neither Suleiman Wad Gamr nor Abdul 


Majid Wad el Lekalik had been present at 
the action, the former being at Salamat, the 
latter at the main camp. They said that 
their losses had been very heavy, only 
those who escaped by swimming the river 
having been saved. They all agreed in 
stating that after the enemy left Birti, they 
had retired to the spot where the main 
camp now was, at the upper end of the 
Shukook pass, and that they had returned 
and occupied the position at Kirbekan on 
the 6th, strengthening the position by rein- 
forcements from the main camp on the even- 
ing of the 9th. 

At the Vakeel's request we sent two of 
our prisoners to be examined by him at 
Birti, he thinking that he would get more 
information out of them than we could. 
His report practically confirmed Slade*s : 
he estimated the numbers present at 2O30, 
and the killed at 700. He expressed his 
opinion that we should meet with no more 
opposition till we reached Berber. 

The prisoners also said that they had 


heard there were 2000 men under Hassan 
Wad Mahommed at Abu Hamed, consisting 
of Ababdeh and Robatab men, and men 
from Berber. They had converted the Gov- 
ernment shoona (grain-store) into a barrack : 
it is in the middle of the town, five hundred 
yards from the river, and has a mud wall 
ten to twelve feet high, and two feet thick. 
They had constructed no other defences. 

A spy who had been sent from Korti to 
Berber arrived in our camp, according to 
his orders, on his way back to Korti. He 
had left Berber about a week before. This 
was his account of the state of affairs there. 
The guns which had been on the left bank 
at Robush had been removed — one to Me- 
temmeh, and one to the right bank at Ber- 
ber. Mohammed el Kheir had moved his 
own property across the river to the right 
bank. Many Berber men had been killed 
in the fight at Abu Klea, and the news of 
that fight had spread terror through the 
town. Most of the men now at Berber 
were Magrafaab Jaalins. The Hadendowas 


and the Bisharin Arabs from the Atbara 
had been asked to come and fight the Eng- 
lish, but had refused. Nour Anga, the 
governor of Metemmeh, had sent to the 
Mahdi for ammunition, but it had been 
refused to him. The gun at Berber was 
out of order. Food was scarce in Berber, 
and the spy professed himself convinced 
that, when the English approached, the 
Jaalins between Berber and Metemmeh 
would surrender. 

By this time I had learnt by experience 
that native reports might generally be 
classed under two heads : those of spies, 
who said what they thought we should 
like to hear ; and those of professed desert- 
ers, which were intended to frighten us. 
We had constantly heard from our spies 
that the tribes were frightened ; that the 
Mahdi's troops were deserting him ; that 
this tribe and that had refused to join him ; 
that the enemy would not fight, but join us 
when we advanced. Of these this spy's 
account was a specimen. We as constantly 



heard from men who came to us, profess- 
ing to be deserters, greatly exaggerated 
accounts of the enemy's numbers and deter- 
mination to fight. Of these, the deserter 
who had come in to our camp at Mishami 
was a specimen. In fact, the only infor- 
mation of value was what our own recon- 
naissance told us, and what was supplied 
to us through Colvile by the Vakeel. 

That evening Colonel Butler rode back 
to my camp, bringing with him an Arabic 
document. It had been found, he told 
me, by a private of the Cornwalls in the 
saddle-bag of a donkey, which was found 
grazing on the bank near the Kirbekan 
camp. There being a very strict column- 
order that all papers of every description 
found anywhere were to be preserved and 
sent to the intelligence officer, this paper 
had been kept for that purpose. But in 
the meantime it had been shown to the 
interpreter of the battalion, and rumour 
had spread through the camp that Khar- 
toum had been taken and Gordon killed. 


I sent for my interpreter and translator, 
who spoke and wrote French but not 
English. On my showing him the paper, 
and asking him what it contained, he an- 
swered : " Tres mauvaises nouvelles ; il dit 
que le Mahdi a pris Khartoum, et que 
Gordon a 6t6 tu6/' I made him translate 
it, and from his translation I again made 
the following version, which I at once sent 
to Abu Dom to be telegraphed to Lord 
Wolseley : — 

Copy of a letter received from the Governor-General 
of Berber to the Goverfior of the Sectiofi. 

" In the name of God, &c., from Mohammed el 
Kheir, Abdullah Khogeali, Emir-General of Ber- 
ber, to his friend, Abdul Majid Wad el Lekalik, 
and all his men. — I inform you that to-day after 
the mid-day prayer we received a letter from the 
faithful Khalife Abdullah Eben Mohammed, in 
which he tells us that Khartoum was taken on 
Monday the ninth Rabi 1 302, on the side of El 
Hauoi, in the following manner. The Mahdi 
(pray upon {priez sur) him, his dervishes, and his 
troops) advanced against the fortifications, and 
entered Khartoum in a quarter of an hour. They 
killed the traitor (le perfide^ Gordon, and cap- 


tured the steamers and boats. God has made 
him glorious ; be grateful, and thank and praise 
God for His unspeakable mercy. I announce it 
to you. Tell your troops." 

The document was dated the thirteenth 
Rabi, and on it was written, '* Received, 
Friday the twentieth Rabi." 

Comparing these dates with the ' Soudan 
Almanac' prepared in the Intelligence 
Department in London, we found that the 
letter announced the fall of Khartoum to 
have taken place on Monday the 26th Jan- 
uary ; it had been written at Berber on the 
30th January, and received at the Shukook 
pass on Friday the 6th February. Now 
we understood why the enemy had returned 
on that day to Kirbekan, and what had 
stiffened their courage. 
i2thFeb. On the 1 2th the wing of the Cornwalls 
at Kirbekan camp advanced about a mile 
through the rapids to the mouth of a broad 
wady — probably one of the many branches 
of the Wady el Argu, which runs across 
the desert from Kirbekan to Abu Egli, on 


the Nile above Berber; and the wing at 
Dulka camp closed up upon them, the last 
boat arriving at 4 p.m. It would have been 
impossible to advance a whole battalion 
farther, and it was not desirable to move 
a small force in boats into the rocky 
reaches of the Shukook until those reaches 
were examined, and the pass itself recon- 
noitred to its farthest end, so that we might 
ascertain what lay behind, and whether the 
pass itself was clear. We were evidently 
now about to become entangled in a long 
rocky pass both by road and river. 

The Engineers and royal naval boat, 
with two sections of field-hospital, accom- 
panied the Cornwalls. The Staffords closed 
up at Kirbekan ; and three companies suc- 
ceeded in reaching Wady el Argu camp, 
but not till very late. Five companies, 
with two companies Black Watch, remained 
at Kirbekan, and the Gordons closed up to 
our camp opposite Dulka island. Owing 
to the shallowness of the water, and their 
boats being very heavily laden, they had 


been obliged to abandon three boats on 
their way up from Hamdab. 

Alleyne reconnoitred a mile and a half 
up stream, from Wady el Argu to the foot 
of a very swift rapid, which he reported 
must be tracked up; and Butler reconnoi- 
tred with the mounted troops, making a 
wide cast out into the desert, and returning 
through the Shukook pass, without finding 
any signs of the enemy. He found a site 
for a camp at the mouth of a wady in the 
Shukook pass, not far from* Jebel Shu- 
kook, the mountain which is the one con- 
spicuous feature in the mass of rugged 
rocks here piled together, and returned to 
the bivouac at Wady el Argu. Orders were 
therefore issued for an advance to the Shu- 
kook camp on the following day. 

In the morning I had received a tele- 
gram, addressed to General Earle by the 
Chief of the Staff, dated the 9th. It in- 
formed me that the Government had de- 
cided that we were to stay in the Soudan 
till the Mahdi's power at Khartoum was 


destroyed. If we could not do this before 
the hot weather, we must wait until autumn. 
Duller had left Gakdul on the 8th for 
Gubat, and would take Metemmeh as soon 
as the Royal Irish reached Gubat. It was 
assumed that I could reach Berber on the 
28th February, or have reported my prox- 
imity to it. Buller would be in the neigh- 
bourhood, with four or six guns and about 
1500 men, on the left bank. If I did not 
think I could reach Berber by that date, 
I was to name a date, in order that Buller 
might meet me and co-operate in the attack 
on Berber. The desert road to Gubat 
would be held, and a garrison left there, 
with a view to subsequent operations of the 
united columns against Khartoum, if, as all 
native report declared to be the case, Gor- 
don was still holding out. I was therefore 
to push forward with all possible speed com- 
patible with safety. I was to leave a garri- 
son of 200 men at Abu Hamed, instead of 
300 as previously ordered, with 250 rounds 
of ammunition per man, and sixty days' 


provisions. The telegram further contained 
orders as to the precautions to be taken by 
the commandant of the garrison, and other 
matters not necessary to detail. 

To this telegram I replied that I did not 
think it possible to reach Berber by the 
28th February, and that any date given 
must be pure conjecture, the time being 
dependent upon condition of unknown 
rapids and unknown movements of the 
enemy. I said it was impossible to pass 
more than one battalion a-day through the 
rapids here ; and if the enemy were holding 
the Shukook, I must again concentrate the 
whole or part of my force. When we 
reached Salamat, I should be able to give 
an approximate date for reaching Abu Ha- 
med, and at that place an approximate date 
for reaching Berber. Now I could only 
say I did not think we could reach the 
latter place under one month from this 
date (i2th February). I intended to cross 
over my mounted troops and transport be- 
fore reaching Abu Hamed. 


Fresh supplies of boat-repairing material 
arrived during the day, sent by camel from 
Korti ; they were very urgently needed. 
Our boats were suffering severely from the 
shallow and rocky rapids up which they 
had to be forced. Planks, pitch, paint, and 
copper nails were conspicuous by their ab- 
sence ; and where a plank was stove in, it 
had to be repaired by a patch of tin from 
a biscuit-box, nailed over the leak with iron 
nails taken from the boxes which contained 
our food. 

Three men of the Staffords died to-day 
of their wounds. The other wounded of 
the Staffords had been carried on in their 
boats, arrangements having been made for 
their transport, and for the transport of the 
wounded of the Black Watch by their own 
regiments. Each wounded man had his 
boat's number attached to his stretcher, and 
a medical officer superintended his being 
placed in the boat. They were to sleep in 
the boats or in tents pitched on shore, as 
the surgeon might think best in each case. 


In the first instance, the stretchers were 
placed athwart-ships near the stern, in front 
of the coxswain ; but it was found that the 
ends of the stretchers were liable to be 
knocked against in hauling the boats up 
rapids, or coming in to shore in swift water ; 
and as this annoyed men made nervous 
by pain and weakness, arrangements were 
afterwards made for laying the stretchers 
along fore and aft, on the thwarts, between 
the rowers. Awnings were spread for 
wounded men, but were not allowed in any 
other boats. 

We had captured about 140 rifles on the 
scene of the action, of which the majority 
had been . broken at the time. These 
broken ones we threw into the middle of 
the river; but about 40 Remingtons we 
retained, with the intention of arming our 
unarmed men with them in case of need ; 
and at our request the Vakeel returned to 
us 1000 rounds of Remington ammunition, 
which we had captured at Birti, and handed 
over to him. 


On the 1 3th the Cornwalls and four com- 13th Feb. 
panics of the Staffords advanced about five 
miles, partly through rapids, to the Shu- 
kook camp. The rest of the Staffords, the 
Gordons, and two companies Black Watch, 
closed up at Wady el Argu, to which I ad- 
vanced my headquarters. 

AUeyne reconnoitred four miles of clear 
and not very swift water beyond. Through 
overhanging rocky cliffs, Butler, with the 
mounted troops, reconnoitred to the upper 
end of the Shukook pass opposite Uss 
island. Here there was another rapid, but 
not so formidable as some we had passed. 
He reported the country opening out, but 
no traces of cultivation; and considered 
that the Cornwalls and the wing of the 
Staffords from Shukook could reach the 
foot of the rapid next day, and possibly 
commence its passage. 

The early morning saw the death of 
Captain Lord Avonmore from enteric fever. 
He, no less than those who fell at Kirbekan, 
was killed in action. He had overtaxed his 


apparently boundless energy; and the ex- 
haustion produced by incessant exposure to 
the sun, and great physical fatigue, left him 
too weak to repel the insidious attack of 
the disease. We laid him by the side of 
the officers whom we had buried on the 
loth ; and as we turned away for the last 
time from those nameless graves, many a 
strong man*s eyes were moist, and many 
a lip quivered from heartfelt emotion. 

To-day the news reached us by telegram 
from Korti that Sir Charles Wilson and 
Lieutenant Stuart Wortley had reached 
Korti on the 9th, with a short account of 
Lord Charles Beresford's brilliant affair with 
the enemy. We learnt that half the West 
Kent Regiment was to leave for Gakdul 
on the loth, and that Lord Wolseley would 
possibly leave for the same place on the 


No information had yet been given to 
the troops as to the fall of Khartoum ; but 
as the Reuter's telegram which arrived 
simultaneously with this news alluded to it 


as a fact established, I thought it desirable, 
to prevent wild rumours, to circulate the 
following memorandum throughout the 
force : — 

" From information received from Lord Wolse- 
ley, there is reason to fear that the original object 
of this expedition — namely, the relief of General 
Gordon — cannot be carried out. 

"When Sir Charles Wilson arrived before 
Khartum, he found it in the hands of the enemy ; 
and from information derived from a letter cap- 
tured after the action of Kirbekan, it is believed 
that Khartum was taken by the Mahdi on the 
26th of January, and that General Gordon was 

"Sir Charles Wilson in returning from Khar- 
tum was wrecked. He and his party appear to 
have taken refuge on an island, whence, accord- 
ing to information received from the Chief of the 
Staff, they were brought off by a steamer under 
the command of Captain Lord Charles Beresford, 

"Lord Charles Beresford had a brilliant little 
engagement with the enemy, who were in posi- 
tion on the bank with four guns. One shot hit 
the boiler, disabling the steamer till the boiler 
was repaired, which was done under fire, taking 


the greater part of the day. One sailor was 
killed, and Lieutenant Van Koughnet, R.N., 
wounded, but not dangerously. 

"Sir Charles Wilson and Lieutenant Stuart 
Wortley arrived at Korti on the night of the lOth 

"It is understood to be the present intention 
of her Majesty's Government to break up the 
Mahdi's power in the Soudan, and a strong force 
of all arms is proceeding to Souakim to crush 
Osman Digna. 

"Headquarters and three companies of the West 
Kent Regiment left Korti on the loth instant for 

"Lord Wolseley will probably leave later to 
join General BuUer's force, and co-operate with 
this column in the capture of Berber." 

14th Feb. On the 14th the Corn walls advanced to 
and reached the foot of Uss rapid, opposite 
Little Uss island, entered the rapid, and 
made some progress through it. Here was 
the true upper entrance to the Shukook 
pass, which had evidently been the site 
of a camp of the enemy. I halted the lead- 
ing wing of the Staffords at the foot of the 
rapid, and the Gordons and other wing of 


the Stafifords closed up upon them before 
nightfall. The Black Watch reached Wady 
el Argu, as did the artillery and convoy. 

I moved my headquarters to the foot of 
Uss rapid. The troopers sent back as guides 
by Colonel Butler to lead me from our Wady 
el Argu camp through the Shukook, instead 
of turning to the right, as they should have 
done, at the entrance to the pass, took a 
turn to the left, and involved me and the 
baggage-convoy in a labyrinth of the wildest 

The path by which they brought us was 
utterly unfitted for a track for loaded camels, 
though practicable enough for horses. We 
marched for six miles through as bad ground 
as it was possible to traverse, wedged in 
between rocks ; and it was evidently im- 
possible that this could be what was after 
all a well-known and much-travelled pass. 
Inquiries from Abu Bekr, who was in rear 
with the baggage, satisfied me that there 
was another road far better, and little, if at 
all, longer ; and I sent back Colonel Colvile 


with Abu Bekr to Wady el Argu, to lead 
the convoy by the better route the next day. 

Colonel Butler reconnoitred three or four 
miles beyond the head of Uss rapid, and 
found swift water but no bad rapid. Culti- 
vation commenced ahead ; and there were 
many mimosa-trees, the ground becoming 
more open. No signs of any enemy, and 
all inhabitants fled. 

A spy returned from Salamat, which was 
now only ten miles from our advanced camp, 
reported that the people had fled on the 1 2th, 
carrying all their possessions with them, in 
the direction of the Robatab country or into 
the desert. Colonel Butler was therefore in- 
structed to push his mounted troops home 
into Salamat the following day, and ascer- 
tain whether it was still held by the enemy 
or not. 

I was now in a position to place the 
Gordon Highlanders ahead of the Stafford- 
shire Regiment in the order of march, and 
accordingly the following orders were issued 
for the next day's advance : — 


" The Cornwalls to continue their advance 
through Uss rapid, covered by the advance 
of the mounted troops ; the Gordons to enter 
the Uss rapid, moving in two columns — one 
by each bank ; the Staffords to be in readi- 
ness to follow the Gordons ; the Black Watch 
to advance from Wady el Argu to the foot 
of Uss rapid." 

This rapid opposite Uss island, though 
not marked in any map or mentioned in 
any account of the river, proved one of the 
most troublesoijie obstacles we had yet en- 
countered. Boats had to track singly by 
the island bank up the last rush of water. 
The Gordons had passed through the lower isth Feb. 
portion of the rapid, and closed up on the 
rear of the Cornwalls, long before these 
were all through the upper rush of water. 
In fact, by 2 p.m. only the Cornwalls and 
two companies of the Gordons were through 
the rapid. 

Meanwhile Butler reconnoitred with the 
mounted troops, and at 1.30 p.m. entered 
the beginning of the long village of Sala- 



mat, which extends for some two and a half 
miles along the left bank opposite the island 
of Sherri. He found the whole village de- 
serted. He reported that there was another 
bad rapid opposite Sherari island — but 
above that, clear water apparently for some 
miles ; and that opposite the upper end of 
the village of Salamat, the yellow sand of 
the true right bank of the Nile was again 

Alleyne, with the leading boats, reached 
a small village opposite the island of Shoar, 
about four miles above the Uss rapid, in 
four hours from leaving the head of the 
rapid, and halted there. All boats which 
had passed through the Uss rapid by 2 p.m., 
and which could therefore reach the Shoar 
bivouac before dark, were sent on there. 

The remainder of the Gordons were 
passed through Uss rapid, and encamped on 
the left bank at its head. The Staffords 
concentrated on a small sand island at the 
foot of the bad part of the rapid, ready to 
commence passing through it at daylight; 


and the Black Watch bivouacked in the 
camp at the foot, occupied by the Staffords 
and Gordons the preceding night. 

Early in the day I had moved my head- 
quarters to the old dervish's camp opposite 
to the rapid and to the entrance of the 
Shukook pass, and about noon had the 
pleasure of seeing the head of the convoy 
and the battery emerge from the pass. That 
pass had long been a subject of anxiety to 
us, and rightly so. In the course of the 
day I rode back some two or three miles 
through it, and an uglier place it was dif- 
ficult to conceive. In some places there 
was barely room for a loaded camel to 
pass between the perpendicular rocks ; in 
others, where the path was wider, the rocks 
had been prepared for defence by loopholed 
stone sconces, in the same way as the kop- 
pies and ridge at Kirbekan. There was 
no order or regularity in the plan of the 
rocks. They seemed to have been up- 
heaved as a mass in some great volcanic 
convulsion, and to have fallen one upon 


another in every direction, covering a space 
some six miles long by three or four broad. 
With our infantry tied to the boats, as it 
was, and with so small a force of mounted 
troops, it would have been a most difficult 
task to dislodge an active and determined 
enemy from such a position, of which he 
knew every outlet, and of which we knew 
nothing. It was an oppressive place to 
remain in. It had not even the redeeming 
element of grandeur, such as great massive 
features give to the most rugged mountain- 
range. It represented low, sullen savagery. 
It was typical of the tribe to whom it 

Orders were issued for a general advance 
of all the boats from their respective posi- 
tions in the morning; and I was enabled, 
with a light heart, to report to Lord Wolse- 
ley that our cavalry had entered Salamat, 
and that the convoy was through the Shu- 
kook pass. 



salamat — destruction of suleiman wad 

game's property. 

My report to Lord Wolseley on the 15th was isthFeb. 
to the following effect : ** Cavalry entered 
Salamat to-day, and found it deserted. 
Leading infantry are within five miles of 
Salamat ; but a bad rapid intervenes oppo- 
site Sherari island, which will probably 
require 500 yards* portage. The rapid 
opposite Uss island is not marked in any 
map, nor had we any information of its 
existence ; but it takes three days to get 
the troops through it. Under conditions 
of exceptionally low Nile and unexpected 
rapids, any estimate of time must be mere 
guess - work. I hope I may reach Abu 


Hamed in ten days, but do not think I 
can concentrate there in less than four- 
teen, as I have all'my camels and horses 
to cross over." 

Colonel Butler, in his reconnaissance of 
the 15th, had reported Sherri island as 
being richly cultivated, with many houses. 
Some of the inhabitants had hailed his 
party across the river, and asked for 
** grace," exactly in the same way as the 
inhabitants of Hebbeh had asked for 
"grace" from Colonel Stewart when his 
steamer was wrecked there. Butler had 
replied that grace would be given to all 
except the murderers of Stewart and his 
companions ; and the islanders replied that 
they had to consult the rest of their people, 
and would reply when all our soldiers had 
arrived at Salamat. 
i6thFeb. On the 1 6th the mounted troops ad- 
vanced and covered the head of Sherari 
rapid, while the Cornwalls advanced to it 
and succeeded in passing six companies 
through, which bivouacked above the rapid. 


The lower half of this rapid was not difficult 
when once the channel was known ; but there 
was only one narrow and difficult passage 
through the upper half. In one place there 
was only just sufficient water through sunken 
rocks for a hundred yards. The boats were 
all taken through by a party of voyageurs. 
A company of the Gordons, with Captain 
Peel, was sent to try another channel round 
Sherari island ; but they returned, having 
lost one boat swamped. The remainder of 
the Comwalls and the Gordons bivouacked 
below the upper portion of the rapid — the 
Staffords at Shoar, and the Black Watch 
still at Uss — the river above being too 
much blocked with boats for them to 
move during the day. The mounted 
troops joined the Corn walls at the head of 
the rapid. Headquarters bivouacked with 
the Gordons ; and the convoy was brought 
on to the same place, as it afforded good 
camping-ground and forage. 

In consequence of the attitude of the in- 
habitants of Sherri island, I sent to them 


a letter in Arabic, promising that if they 
would lay down their arms and assist us 
with supplies, no one should be harmed 
except the murderers of Colonel Stewart, 
and that their houses and sakyehs should be 
spared. The letter was delivered on the 

Orders were issutd for all troops to ad- 
vance on the following day — the cavalry to 
cover the advance of the Cornwalls ; the 
camel corps to remain in bivouac, and 
cover the convoy, artillery, and troops in 
the Sherari cataract. 
17th Feb. On the 17th, Colonel Butler, with the 
cavalry, occupied Salamat by 9 a.m., and at 
the same hour two companies of the Corn- 
walls landed on Sherri island. They found 
it deserted, and commenced to search for 
supplies. No cattle were found, but a con- 
siderable quantity of grain and dates, which, 
together with a supply of grain found on 
Uss island, completed the loads of our 
camel transport to its full carrying power. 

The Sherari cataract caused great delay 


and considerable damage to boats. The 
Staffords and the Gordons each lost one 
boat, damaged beyond repair ; but no lives 
were lost. By sunset the Cornwalls and 
three companies of the Gordons were in 
bivouac at Salamat, with the naval boat, 
Engineers, part of the field-hospital, and 
the cavalry. Headquarters also moved to 
Salamat, and occupied a house in a walled 
garden near the river -bank, belonging to 
a sister of Abu Bekr — an aunt, therefore, 
of Suleiman Wad Gamr. All the camel 
troops and convoy advanced to a good 
camping-ground, with ample forage, at the 
head of Sherari. Colonel Butler recon- 
noitred as far as Jebel Asma, and ascended 
the mountain. He reported clear water 
for nine miles from Salamat, no trace of 
enemy, and signs of cultivation along the 
river-bank beyond Jebel Asma. 

The infantry continued their slow pro- 
gress through the rapids. The remainder 
of the Gordons and the Staffords bivouacked 
at Sherari, and the Black Watch at Shoar. 

202 SALA>L\T. 

On the pre\nous evening a tel^ram from 
the acting Chief of the Staff had arrived, 
dated 13th, giving projects for sending us 
up supplies by hired camels, and stating 
what supplies we might possibly find at 
Abu Hamed. It informed me that a con- 
voy was to start from Korosko on the 15 th, 
which should reach Abu Hamed by the 
20th or 2ist; that Lord Wolseley antici- 
pated that I could be ready to leave Abu 
Hamed on the 22d or 23d ; but as he could 
not let me leave it until he should hear 
from General Duller, I was to await orders 
there, and he scarcely hoped I should reach 
Berber until the 13th or 14th March. 

The telegram informed me of Lord Wol- 
seley's proposals for the disposition of the 
troops after the projected capture of Ber- 
ber, and of my own share, and that of my 
column, in these arrangements ; but as sub- 
sequent events made these proposals void, 
it is not necessary to reproduce them here. 

Captain K eke wich, D.A.A.G., also arrived 
with despatches, having left Korti on the 


13th, and travelled through by camel in 
three days from Abu Dom. He brought 
me a letter from Lord Wolseley, and a 
copy of the instructions to General Duller, 
dated 12th February. With him returned 
from Abu Dom all the camel-corps men 
hitherto employed in carrying messages to 
and from that place, — arrangements having 
now been made with the commandant at 
Abu Dom, and the Vakeel at Birti, to sup- 
ply messengers between these places, and 
with the latter to supply messengers from 
Birti to our camp. From Captain Keke- 
wich we learned something of the situation 
on the desert side, so far as it was known 
at Korti up to the date of his leaving. 

I replied to-day to the Chief of the Staffs 
telegram. I said frankly that I had no 
faith in the promises of any sheikhs that 
they would forward supplies to our camp, 
and that the convoy I was to receive at 
Abu Hamed from Korosko would enable 
my force to live till the 23d April, and no 
longer. I entered into questions of supply 


as affecting Lord Wolseley's proposed plan 
of operations, expressed my fears as to too 
sanguine an estimate having been formed 
both as to time and supplies, and again 
repeated that I could fix no dates, rate of 
progress being dependent on unknown con- 
ditions. I informed him that my rear bat- 
talion could only reach Salamat on the 19th. 
Immediately on arrival at Salamat, Sulei- 
man Wad Gamr*s house had been taken 
possession of and searched. Many relics of 
the murder were found there, including one 
of poor Stewart's visiting-cards stained with 
blood, extracts from M. Herbin's papers, 
and photographs of M. Herbin and of the 
Austrian consul, presented by them to Mr 
Power. Chests of papers were found here, 
and great numbers of papers, with some few 
relics of the murder, on Sherri island. All 
these were secured and carefully examined 
by the interpreters ; and orders were issued 
for all the troops at Salamat, except the 
pickets and a search-party ordered to 
Sherri island, to parade under the intelli- 

Suleiman's property destroyed. 205 

gence officers with axes, picks, and shovels, 
for the destruction of property. The other 
troops were ordered to close up to Salamat. 

On the 1 8th the Gordons and Staffords isthFeb. 
closed up on the Cornwalls at Salamat. 
The damaged boats of the Cornwalls and 
Gordons were repaired, the repairing party 
working till late. The Black Watch entered, 
and a portion passed through, the Sherari 

The foraging party on Sherri island was 
successful, and brought over some forty 
camel-loads of grain in their boats. The 
troops were, I fear, much disappointed at not 
obtaining permission to destroy the houses 
and sakyehs on the island; but knowing 
that sooner or later we should have to 
return down the river, I forbade all destruc- 
tion which, without any marked object to be 
gained, would interfere with the sources of 
supply on our return. The discipline of the 
troops was admirable. At one time some 
unauthorised burning of huts had taken 
place — not, I believe, by enlisted soldiers. 


I had therefore published an order abso- 
lutely forbidding such irregularities, directing 
that any soldier, voyageur, or interpreter, 
plundering or setting fire to any house, 
sakyehy or trees, without authority, was to 
be tried by summary court-martial, and 
pointing out that the offence was punishable 
with death. From that date the offence 
entirely ceased. 

The troops had set to with a will to 
destroy Suleiman Wad Gamr's property. 
His house was a large one, standing on an 
eminence, with a colonnade supported by 
pillars, and several courtyards, each with 
several rooms. Roofs were pulled down, 
all wood available for firewood carried off, 
the walls shaken by charges of gun-cotton, 
and then utterly destroyed by the pick and 
the shovel. Beams and solid wooden doors, 
rare articles in this country, were destroyed 
by fire, and the house was razed to the 
ground. All his sakyeks were burnt, and 
his palm-trees were cut down and destroyed 
with fire. 

Suleiman's property destroyed. 207 

By way of instruction, I ordered a wing 
of the Staffords to occupy Sheikh Omar s 
house as their bivouac this evening, and to 
place it in a defensible state, with orders to 
destroy it and the rest of Omar's property 
in the morning — Omar having escaped from 
the Vakeel, and rejoined Suleiman. Abu 
Bekr's property and that of his sister were 

These houses were of a higher class than 
any we had met with in the Shagiyeh or 
Monassir country. They had some attempt 
at ornament, and stood in gardens. In 
Abu Bekr s garden there was an orange- 
tree full of blossom, the only one we had 
seen since leaving Dongola. 

Colvile's soldier-servant came into camp 
to-day, having had a curious adventure. 
He and a native servant of Colvile's, a 
Dongolese or Shagiyeh — I forget which — 
having left the bivouac of the previous 
day on camels with Colvile's baggage for 
Salamat, had taken a wrong turn in a wady, 
and had strayed into the desert, where they 


lost themselves and wandered about till 
nightfall, without water, and with little food. 
In the early morning they started to try 
and find the camp, and came upon a party 
of natives — doubtless nomad Monassir — 
tending cattle in a wady, with their women 
and children. The native servant asserted 
that they invited him to join them in killing 
the white man, but he told them there were 
50,000 English at Salamat, who had come 
here on purpose to avenge another English- 
man's death, and they would certainly all be 
killed if they hurt this one. At all events 
the two servants were shown their way to 
Salamat, and allowed to proceed unharmed, 
— another tolerably convincing proof of the 
moral effect of the fight at Kirbekan. 

Butler reconnoitred four or five miles 
beyond Jebel Asma, reported the river 
clear, the country fairly open, and ample 
cultivation for foraging herds of animals. 
Orders were therefore issued for the advance 
to recommence in the morning, the Corn- 
walls leading, followed by the Gordons ; the 


Staffords to halt at Salamat, repair their 
boats, and demolish Sheikh Omars pro- 
perty. The Black Watch, battery, and 
convoy, to close up to Salamat. The 
cavalry to cover the advance with half the 
camel corps and two guns. 

Reporting the intended advance to the 
Chief of the Staff to-day, I said: ** I am un- 
willing to send back soldiers with messages, 
and native runners are limited in number. 
I shall therefore not attempt to communi- 
cate with you again after this, unless some- 
thing special occurs, until I reach Abu 
Hamed, which I hope to do about 26th 

A native taken prisoner by our scouts 

stated he had left Abu Hamed four days 

ago, and had met crowds of men, women, 

and children, with cattle and camels, making 

their way up the river on both banks. He 

said they had few rifles, but many spears ; 

and he had heard that Suleiman Wad 

Gamr was retiring on Berber, by order of 

Mohammed el Kheir. All the Monassir 


2 1 S ALAM AT. 

villages were deserted, but the Robatab 
villages were still inhabited. 
19th Feb. On the 19th the advance from Salamat 
commenced. Omar's house was razed to 
the ground, and his sakyehs and palm-trees 
destroyed. A quantity of grain was col- 
lected. The cavalry and camel troops 
started with grain for six days ; every 
transport camel was fully loaded up, and 
the camels had a good feed. The last of 
the troops and the convoy closed -up at 
Salamat, and were ordered to advance on 
the following day. 




On the 19th, Colonel Butler on the bank, 19th Feb. 
and Colonel AUeyne in his boat, recon- 
noitred for a distance of between eleven 
and twelve miles from Salamat, and Butler 
selected a site for a bivouac at Sulimanyeh, 
about nine miles above Salamat, and about 
two and a half miles below the wreck of 
Stewart's steamer ; and the Corn walls, Gor- 
dons, and details concentrated there by five 
o'clock. Butler reported that when he ar- 
rived opposite the wreck, two Arab scouts on 
camels began to shout from the right bank, 
and then rode off to the north. We had 
seen the enemy's scouts in the same way on 
our arrival at Salamat. A prisoner taken 


212 HEBBEH. 

beyond the site of the wreck asserted that 
Suleiman Wad Gamr had arrived at Suliman- 
yeh on the i6th, and had gone northwards 
on the 17th, taking with him Fakri Wad 
Etman ; he was said to be accompanied 
by about 400 men and a number of women 
and children, with many cattle, camels, don- 
keys, and much baggage. Lekalik, with 
the force which had retreated from the 
Shukook pass, was said to have preceded 
Suleiman Wad Gamr, two of the sheikhs 
that had been with him at the Shukook 
having been sent direct to Berber. 

Another prisoner informed us that he 
had left the neighbourhood of Abu Hamed 
on the 14th. He heard that many men 
from Berber had arrived there, and that 
there were 2000 Ababdehs, 1000 Bisharin, 
and some Robatab assembled there to 
defend Abu Hamed. 

Although the accounts of prisoners were 
by no means to be trusted, there was a 
persistency in the accounts of the flights 
along the left bank which, coupled with the 


hasty and complete abandonment of the 
Shukook pass, led me to believe that the 
enemy in front of us was in a state of 
demoralisation, and unlikely to make any 
stand. On the other hand, the presence of 
the enemy^s mounted scouts on the right 
bank — their defiant attitude as they retired, 
menacing us by voice and gesture, as the 
enemy's outposts on the left bank had men- 
aced us before Kirbekan, but at no other 
time — led me to believe the consistent re- 
ports that on the right bank at, or possibly 
before reaching, Abu Hamed, we should 
meet with a more determined opposition, in 
which it was probable the news of the fall 
of Khartoum might induce both Ababdeh 
and Bisharin Arabs to join. 

I was therefore anxious to cross my 
mounted troops and transport animals over 
to the right bank as soon as practicable, and 
resolved to do this at the first convenient 
locality. Little was to be gained by ad- 
vancing farther on the left bank ; for though 
there was perhaps more cultivation on it 

214 HEBBEH. 

than on the right bank, both were barren 
sandy wastes, with only occasional patches 
of growing crops ; and as at Sulimanyeh we 
were within little more than forty miles of 
Abu Hamed, and all accounts united in 
agreeing that there was but one more rapid 
of any importance — that close to Mograt 
island — the time before reaching Abu 
Hamed should now be so brief, that a little 
better grazing for the camels did not weigh 
against the importance of effecting the 
crossing without opposition. 

I had attached Colonel Colvile to the 
advanced guard under Butler since his 
arrival in camp after guiding the convoy 
through the Shukook, with instructions to 
send in a sketch daily to accompany Colonel 
Butler's report. Judging from his sketch 
received this evening at Salamat that a 
favourable crossing - place would be found 
near Sulimanyeh, I wrote to Colonel Butler 
saying that the whole of the troops at Sala- 
mat would move to Sulimanyeh on the 20th, 
that I should myself start at 7 and be in 


his camp at 8.30, and that I begged him to 
wait for me there. He was to send oh the 
Cornwalls and Gordons in the morning by 
river, but not the guns or any baggage or 
baggage-animals till after my arrival ; and 
two companies of each of the leading bat- 
talions were to halt on the left bank op- 
posite to Hebbeh, with all the axes, picks, 
and shovels the battalions could furnish. 
No troops were to be allowed to land on 
the right bank. My intention was, if 
there was a favourable crossing - place at 
Sulimanyeh, to cross all the animals and 
guns over there with the boats of the two 
rear battalions, to visit and examine the 
site of Stewart's murder, and then destroy 
the house and surrounding property of 
Fakri Wad Etman. If there should not be 
a favourable crossing-place, the dispositions 
were such that no delay whatever would be 

On the morning of the 20th I reached 20th Feb. 
Sulimanyeh at the hour named, and told 
Colonel Butler my views. He said that 

2l6 HEBBEH. 

Hebbeh itself afforded so favourable a site for 
the crossing, that he had directed AUeyne 
to halt all the boats there, pending my de- 
cision. On arrival opposite Hebbeh, directly 
opposite the wrecked steamer, I found all 
the conditions for a favourable crossing 
fulfilled. On this side a high commanding 
bank, with clear view over the neighbouring 
country, affording an excellent position for 
infantry and guns both to sweep the oppo- 
site bank and hold their own against any 
attack from this side. Below the high bank, 
but easily approached by a natural ramp, a 
long sandbank sloping gradually into the 
water. On the opposite side, but a quarter 
of a mile below, a high Nile island, forming 
a strong position for infantry, and with a 
similar sandbank — the breadth from the left 
bank to the high Nile island being about 
300 yards. The high Nile island itself was 
separated' from the right bank only by a 
narrow channel, over which at one place 
there was a dry crossing. 

I at once ordered the crossing to be 


undertaken. Sending the Cornwalls over 
in their boats to establish themselves on the 
high Nile island, and to take up a position 
to cover the crossing, and bringing half the 
Gordons to the high ground on the left 
bank, where I directed them to form a 
zareeba, I sent back orders to Sulimanyeh 
for the guns and baggage there to be 
brought on by their escort, and for the 
whole of the troops and convoy on their 
arrival there, both by land and water, to be 
pushed on to Hebbeh. 

We could see with our glasses that we 
were being watched from behind the sand- 
hills less than a mile out in the desert on 
the right bank, and Butler at once crossed 
over with a scouting-party of Hussars, before 
whom the enemy's scouts retired. About 
II A.M. the baggage of the advanced guard 
and two guns arrived from Sulimanyeh, and 
the guns were at once placed in position. 
Our Hussars formed a line of vedettes on a 
radius of a mile and a half from the point 
of crossing on the left bank, and those first 


2l8 HEBBEH. 

sent across placed vedettes in commanding 
positions about a mile out on the right 
bank. About the same hour, ii a.m., the 
leading boats of the Black Watch and Staf- 
fords arrived. They had advanced along 
both banks from Salamat By one o'clock 
the remainder of the battery and the con- 
voy arrived, under escort of half the camel 

The troops and baggage were crossed 
over in the following order : — 
Scouting-party 19th Hussars. 
Support, consisting of half the camel 

Two guns of the Egyptian battery, with 
their camels — having been replaced in 
their position on the left bank by the 
four remaining guns on their arrival ; 
they were placed in position on high 
Nile island as soon as crossed over. 
Cavalry baggage. 
Camel corps baggage. 
Remainder of the 19th Hussars — having 
been relieved on vedette duty by the 


half of the camel corps which had 
escorted the convoy. 
Camels of the four guns on the left 

Headquarter baggage and horses, and 

infantry regimental horses. 
The transport company, camels, and 

The cattle and donkeys. 
The four guns. 

Remaining half of the camel corps. 
Each animal was towed over by a boat, 
— its saddle, load, and driver or rider being, 
as a rule, ferried across in that boat. The 
ferrying commenced at 1 1 a.m. and ended 
for the day at 5.30 p.m., recommenced at 20th to 21s 


7 A.M. and finished at 2 p.m., having thus 
occupied thirteen and a half hours of actual 
work, during which time 780 animals, with 
their equipment and loads, and their drivers 
or riders, and six guns, had been taken 

The crossing was effected under the 
superintendence of Colonel Alleyne, as- 

220 HEBBEH. 

sisted by all the staff officers available. 
Two crossing-places were worked at the 
same time ; and it was found that as many 
as fifty boats could be simultaneously em- 
ployed, but not more. The crossing was 
made down-stream, the actual distance tra- 
versed being about 400 yards. 

The water being too shallow for the 
boats to come quite up to the dry shore of 
the sandbank, each animal, having had a 
rope fastened securely round its head by 
one of Lieutenant Bourke's blue-jackets, or 
by one of the Egyptian camel- men, was 
led into the water, and the loose end of 
the rope was handed to a man in the stern. 
The boat was then rowed off from shore, 
and the animal followed till out of its 
depth, when it commenced to swim, or, in 
some cases of camels, lay on its side and 
allowed itself to be towed across. The 
horses swam freely; and it was found im- 
portant to let them have ample length of 
rope, with their heads freed from any 
strain. With the camels, on the other 


hand, it was found necessary to have a 
very short rope, and to hold the animaVs 
head well above water, close up to the 
boat. The camel is an indififerent swim- 
mer. He can make his way down-stream 
for a short time, but soon becomes ex- 
hausted; and he cannot swim against a 
strong stream. The tendency always is 
for his head to go under, and his hind- 
quarters to rise above the water; and the 
Egyptian artillerymen counteracted this by 
sitting astride on the rumps of their camels, 
thus forcing the quarters down, when the 
heads correspondingly rise. The camels 
which were least exhausted were those that 
lay on their sides, and, with their heads 
held well up close to the hands of the man 
in the stern, allowed themselves, thus sus- 
pended, to be towed across without attempt- 
ing to swim. 

The veterinary surgeon with his assist- 
ants was stationed on the right bank, and 
administered restoratives to any animals 
which appeared exhausted on arrival. I 


222 HEBBEH. 

have noticed, for future guidance, that the 
points chiefly to be attended to, in addition 
to the length of rope above-mentioned, are 
the tying of the head-rope, great care being 
necessary to prevent its slipping or getting 
round the animars nostrils ; the hours of 
crossing, which should not be very early 
or very late, but when the sun is well up, 
so that there is less risk of chill ; the 
pace of the boats, which, in the case of 
horses and camels, should be regulated by 
their pace of swimming ; immediate admin- 
istration of restoratives to exhausted ani- 
mals ; and gentle exercise after crossing 
for all. 

We lost only three camels. One, the 
rope having broken, floated down the rapid 
water and was drowned. Two died from 
suffocation, the rope having slipped and 
closed their nostrils. Six others, nearly all 
from among those which crossed over late 
in the evening, suffered subsequently from 
epileptic fits, similar to staggers in a horse 


Of these, three recovered, and the rest 
died; though had they been able to rest 
for a few days, they also would in all 
probability have recovered. No casualty 
occurred among the horses or cattle. One 
donkey died of exhaustion. 





aoth to 2ist While the crossing was in progress on the 


20th, I visited the wreck and the scene of 
the murder, taking with me those of the 
staff who could be spared, and the com- 
manding officers of regiments. We found 
the steamer impaled on a large rock, about 
two hundred yards from the proper right 
bank of the river. She was a much larger 
vessel than we had supposed her to be. 
She was seventy feet in length from stem 
to stern, and twenty -two feet in breadth 
over her paddles : the depth of her hold 
was four feet six inches. Plates of iron a 
quarter of an inch thick protected her sides, 


pitted with bullet-marks, and torn through 
in places by case-shot or splinters of shell. 
She lay with her keel sixteen feet above 
the present level of the water, in a channel 
studded with rocks — an intricate narrow 
labyrinth ; while on the left bank of the 
river there was open clear water for nearly 
three hundred yards in breadth, so that at 
the time of the wreck there must have 
been nearly four hundred yards of open 
water on that bank. Yet her pilot had 
steered her into this rocky maze, where, 
even at high Nile, many of the rocks must 
have shown above water. To us it seemed 
incredible that the wreck was an accident, 
for it was almost impossible to believe she 
had not been purposely steered to her 
destruction. And yet, who can say ? At 
high Nile she would have come rushing 
down the swift water above, and a very 
small error in steering would have caused 
her to be swept in here. 

The natives had stripped her of every- 
thing that could be of use, leaving her a 



226 HEBBEH. 

mere shell. All her wood-work had been 
carried away, including the floats of her 
paddles, and such iron as was sufficiently 
portable. The after-part of her hold was 
filled with sand, her bows were high out 
of water. A few torn scraps of letters and 
paper, of no particular interest, were lit- 
tered about; but there was nothing what- 
ever worth preserving as a relic. 

From the steamer we walked by a dry 
causeway to the mainland — right bank — 
which we followed down-stream for about 
four hundred yards, when we came to the 
first group of houses of Hebbeh. We had 
brought with us Abu Bekr, the uncle of 
Suleiman Wad Gamr, and I have seldom 
seen a man in a more wholesome state of 
fear. He evidently thought that we had 
brought him here to execute him on the 
spot. But he mastered his terrors, and 
pointed out to us the house of Fakri Wad 
Etman. It was an ordinary native mud- 
house, the external entrance being into a 
small courtyard, on one side of which was 


the house. But it was not here, Abu Bekr 
told us, that the strangers would have been 
received. In this house the women lived, 
and no strangers would have been admitted 
there. The murder must have taken place 
in the salaamliky or guest-chamber — a de- 
tached mud -hut of one room only, some 
fifty yards from the dwelling-house. We 
entered this small room, stooping to pass 
under the low doorway with feelings of 
awe. But there was nothing to remind us 
of the terrible tragedy that had taken place 
there six months before. There were no 
signs of blood. The floor and all the 
ground round the hut had been carefully 
strewn with fine sand. 

A hundred yards in front of the door, on 
the river-bank, stood a group of palms, the 
scene of another tragedy. But I will let 
the story be told in the words of one who 
was fortunate enough to escape from the 
scene, as taken down from his own lips by 
Major Slade, through the medium of an 
interpreter, on the ist February. 

228 HEBBEH. 


"I am the stoker of the steamer Abbas, 
which left Khartoum about six months ago, on 
a Wednesday. Stewart Pasha, two European 
consuls, twelve Greeks, five artillery soldiers, four 
Arab women and four slave women, and seven 
native crew, were on board. The captain of the 
steamer was Mahomed Saf Eddin, and the reises 
[pilots] Ali Bishteeli and Mohamed. Two other 
steamers accompanied us to beyond Berber, and 
four nuggers sailed with us, which were towed as 
far as Berber by the two steamers. The steamers 
shelled the forts at Berber, and when our steamer 
was safely past, they left us, and we continued 
our journey with the four nuggers. We left the 
nuggers behind us, just before reaching Abu 
Hamed, and steamed on. 

" On a Thursday, three days before the end of 
the month of Dhul-kadeh [i8th September], at 
about nine in the morning, the steamer ran on 
a rock about two feet below the surface in Wad 
Gamr's country. Before we struck we had seen 
several people running away into the hills on 
both banks. When we struck, the small boat 
was filled with our things, and everything was 
landed on the small island. Four trips were 
made between the steamer and the island, and 
when everything of value had been landed, 


Stewart Pasha returned to the steamer himself, 
drove a nail into the vent of the gun, and filed 
the projecting part off. The gun was bolted to 
the deck of the ship, and the artillery soldiers set 
it free, and threw it overboard. Two boxes of 
gun-ammunition were also thrown overboard at 
the same time. 

" While this was going on, several people came 
to the right bank and shouted out, * Give us peace 
and grace.' Hassan Bey, belonging to the Tele- 
graph Department, acted as interpreter to Stewart 
Pasha, and told the natives that they would have 
peace. Four or five natives swam over to the 
island, and Hassan Bey returned with them in 
the small boat to the right bank, and saw Sheikh 
Suleiman Wad Gamr, who was in a house near 
the bank. Hassan asked him for camels to take 
the party to Merawi, and Suleiman ordered four 
camels to be taken to the bank to be loaded with 
the baggage, and Hassan returned. Suleiman 
then sent two men to the island to invite Stewart 
Pasha to land and come to the house. Every- 
body then landed on the right bank, taking with 
them all the baggage. Hassan Bey then went 
to the house of a blind man named Etman Fakri, 
with two men ; and he was told by Suleiman to 


ask Stewart Pasha and the two consuls to come 
in and drink coffee, and arrange about the price 
to be paid for the camels. This was at about 

230 HEBBEH. 

4 P. M. The soldiers wanted to accompany 
Stewart Pasha as a guard ; but Hassan Bey said 
that it would frighten the people, and the camels 
would not be given. 

" Stewart Pasha, the two consuls, and Hassan 
Bey then entered the house of Etman Fakri. 
They were all unarmed except Stewart Pasha, 
who had a small revolver on his belt After a 
short time, I saw Suleiman come out of the house 
with a copper water-pot in his hand. He made a 
sign to the people who were standing about the 
village armed with swords and spears ; and im- 
mediately the people divided into two parties, 
one going to the house of Etman Fakri, and the 
other rushing to the place (by the palms) where 
the rest of Stewart's party was assembled. I was 
with this party, and when the natives charged 
us, we threw ourselves into the river. The natives 
fired at us and killed many ; others were drowned. 
I swam to a small island, and remained there till 
it was dark, when I swam to the left bank. I 
remained there for some time, and then made my 
way to Hamdab. There I was taken by a man 
called Taha Wad Fadeil, made prisoner, and 
taken to Sheikh Omar, uncle of Suleiman Wad 
Gamr, at Birti. He told me to remain with him 
and not escape, and he would treat me well. I have 
been at Birti ever since, and remained there after 
the dervishes ran away the day before yesterday. 


"I heard that when the natives entered the 
house of Etman Fakri, they fell upon Stewart 
Pasha and the consuls, and killed them all. 
Hassan Bey escaped, wounded in the arm by a 
knife, and went to Berber. When the natives 
rushed into the hut, Hassan Bey held the blind 
man in front of him, and thus was saved. The 
captain was killed. 

"Two of the artillery soldiers, the two reiseSy 
and three of the native crew, are alive at Berber. 
Four full-grown slaves, one woman slave, and two 
young ones, are also alive, and were near Birti, in 
the desert looking after cattle, a month ago. The 
money found was divided amongst the natives 
who fell upon the party. Everything else was 
sent to Berber. Two bundles of spears, and two 
suits of chain-armour, the property of one of the 
consuls, were at Birti. 

"All the bodies of those murdered were thrown 
into the river." 

We found but few traces of the murder : 
some fragments of books, more of poor 
Stewart's visiting-cards, a shirt-sleeve stain- 
ed with blood, and a few papers, apparently 
belonging to MM. Herbin and Power. At 
Sherari island we had found five pages of 
Stewart's diary, describing Gordon's entry 

232 HEBBEH. 

into Abu Hamed and Berber on the way 
from Korosko to Khartoum. 

We pressed Abu Bekr as to how Sulei- 
man Wad Gamr came to be at the scene 
of the wreck, and he told us that as soon 
as the steamer went ashore, Fakri Wad 
Etman had sent a message to Suleiman 
Wad Gamr at Salamat; and that Sulei- 
man had immediately ordered his camels, 
and had hastened to Hebbeh. This was 
quite consistent with the stoker's account of 
the wreck having taken place at nine, and 
Suleiman's first appearance on the scene 
some time in the afternoon, when Hassan 
Bey went to Fakri Wad Etman's house, 
after all the baggage had been removed 
from the steamer, the gun spiked, and the 
ammunition destroyed. 

Orders were issued for the destruction of 
the property of Fakri Wad Etman and the 
2istFeh village of Hebbeh on the 21st The work 
was superintended by the officers of the 
Intelligence Department, who searched 
everywhere for papers or relics, boring and 





digging wherever the ground seemed dis- 
turbed. Some skeletons were found, but 
they were bid, and of Africans. Little or 
nothing of interest was discovered. There 
was no trace of that journal of which Gordon 
spoke in such high terms. Fakri Wad Et- 
man's houses were destroyed, his sakyehs 
burnt, and his palm-trees cut down and 
set on fire : his salaamlik was razed to the 





2ist Feb. On the night of the 2 1 st, headquarters biv- 
ouacked on the high Nile island with the 
Cornwalls and Staffords, mounted troops, 
and convoy. The Gordons and Black 
Watch bivouacked on the left bank. Butler 
reconnoitred a few miles to the front, and 
reported the river very swift for about two 
miles, and then again comparatively easy. 
With the exception of an occasional small 
village with cultivation, the open desert of 
yellow sand reached to the water's edge. 

We now were about to leave the region 
of rocks, and to enter a country where there 
was breathing-space. The character of the 
opposition likely to be encountered was also 


changed. We had no longer to fear ambus- 
cades in ravines, or to expect to find rocky 
gorges held against us by ensconced rifle- 
men. If the enemy on the right bank 
meant battle before our reaching Abu 
Hamed, he must fight us in comparatively 
open ground, where the discipline of our 
troops, and the superiority of our weapons, 
must tell with deadly effect ; and, if report 
was true, we might expect here to meet the 
nomad Bisharin Arabs, whose tactics would 
probably be like those of the Hadendowas 
at Teb and Tamai, or the enemy encoun- 
tered by Herbert Stewart. The change 
was a great relief; but we had also to 
consider that the enemy we should now 
encounter would consist of fresh troops, 
undaunted by previous defeat. 

The following orders were therefore is- 
sued : ** In the further advance of the 
column by river, every effort must be made 
to keep the boats well closed up, not by 
constant delays on the part of the leading 
boats to wait for the remainder, but by stren- 

236 HUELLA. 

UOU5 exertions on the part of the crews of 
the boats in rear to keep up with those lead- 
ing the advance. Commanding officers will 
impress upon all non-commissioned officers 
and men that the success of the expedition, 
and its safety while moving by river, depend 
mainly upon the amount of eneigy which 
they put into their work. 

** The advance will be covered on the 
right bank by the mounted troops, who will 
give warning to the leading boats of any 
aggressive movement of the enemy. Should 
the officers commanding the mounted troops 
report the enemy advancing to attack, the 
leading boats will fall back on the rear boats 
of the leading half-battalion, and the rear 
half-battalion will close up. As soon as the 
leading half battalion is concentrated, the 
troops will be landed and at once formed 
up to meet the attack in the strongest avail- 
able position. All following battalions, un- 
less specially ordered to the contrary, will 
close up on the leading battalion, land, and 
await orders." 


The orders for an unexpected landing 
issued by Major- General Earle on 19th 
January were republished, and attention 
called to their salient points. The various 
departmental boats were assigned their 
places in the column. 

" The advance by land of the guns and 
convoy, and their escort, must be guided by 
circumstances," ran the order, "which may 
change from day to day ; therefore no pre- 
cise rules can be laid down, but all trans- 
port must be kept well together, must move 
on as wide a front as the nature of the 
ground permits, and must invariably be pro- 
tected by flankers, well thrown out into the 

On the morning of the 2 2d the column 22dFeb. 
advanced, the Gordon Highlanders leading, 
at 6.45 A.M. The river immediately above 
our crossing-place was very swift and diffi- 
cult, and it was late in the afternoon before 
the last boat was through it. Two miles of 
swift and rocky water followed. The two 
leading battalions and mounted troops — 

238 HUELLA, 

under Colonel Butler — bivouacked at a 
small village about six miles above Hebbeh, 
and nearly opposite a remarkable rock of 
white marble, standing alone in the river, 
called Hajar el Baida, " the white rock." 
The cavalry reconnoitred six miles to the 
front, and saw no trace of the enemy. 

The remainder of the column bivouacked 
at El Kab, about a mile below Hajar el 
Baida. Here there was a small village with 
a fair quantity of growing crops. There 
was also a large stone fort on a high rock 
over the river, and another on the opposite 
bank, of precisely the same nature as those 
already spoken of at Kabenat, below Birti. 
We took up a strong defensive position here, 
with a company on outpost on a high de- 
tached rock in front, only accessible by one 
steep path. The country beyond was flat 
desert, or undulating sand-dunes. 

Before moving off from Hebbeh in the 
morning, I had released a spy of El Zain. 
This man had been brought in by our 
scouts, and after telling many different 


Stories, had at last confessed to being a 
spy of El Zain, sent by him to obtain in- 
formation of our strength and movements. 
I suppose he ought to have been hanged, 
but I thought he would be more useful 
alive ; and having extracted from him such 
information as he would give as to El Zain*s 
position and strength, I let him see the 
whole force, and then sent him back to El 
Zain, bidding him tell that robber-chief 
what he had seen at Kirbekan and Hebbeh. 

On the 23d the boats advanced simul- 23d Feb. 
taneously from both camps, moving in 
parallel columns by both banks. Much 
swift water was encountered, but no rapid 
necessitating tracking. By an early hour 
in the afternoon the leading boats had 
reached a cluster of grass huts at the head 
of a swift rapid, said by Abu Bekr to be 
named Huella, and to be the last habita- 
tions in the Monassir country. 

Before nightfall, by dint of great exertion, 
the last boat of the column had closed up, 
and our 215 boats lay moored side by side 

240 HUELLA. 

along the bank, having averaged lo^ miles 
rowing against very swift water. 

The mounted troops having reconnoitred 
five miles to the front, reported good clear 
water, and having seen no enemy, though 
traces of their camel scouts, fell back to 

The convoy and artillery, marching on a 
broad front over the undulating desert sand, 
also closed up. On the way I had halted 
them, and told Major Wodehouse, who 
commanded the convoy throughout, to make 
dispositions to resist an attack from the 
left front. The camels were rapidly parked, 
and a strong front of fire brought to bear ; 
and I was satisfied that the convoy, which 
was moving with wide -flanking scouts, 
would run no risk of being taken at a dis- 
advantage. The convoy then moved on 
to Huella. 

Village Huella was not, in any sense of 
the term, and there was no cultivation. 
It was apparently only the temporary 
resting-place of nomad Arabs, who brought 


flocks and herds there to water and graze. 
There was no forage for camels, but we 
were assured that the following day's ad- 
vance through easy water would bring us to 
cultivation in the Robatab country. The 
camels had brought loads of cut forage 
with them from El Kab and Hajar el 
Baida, and an issue of grain was sanc- 

Shortly after leaving El Kab, we had been 
hailed by a camel-man on the left bank, and 
having ferried him across, ascertained that 
he was a spy sent from the Intelligence 
Department at headquarters, who had been 
sent to Berber with orders to report his 
news to us on his way back. It differed in 
little from what we previously knew. He 
brought back with him a messenger whom 
we had sent from Hebbeh on the 21st with 
despatches. This messenger had been 
seized by some dervishes in the Shukook 
pass, his papers had been taken from him, 
and he had been stripped. The dervishes 
were proceeding to kill him, when the camel- 


242 HUELLA. 

man from Berber appeared on the scene, 
and they fled hastily.- 

In the evening, a boy whom we had 
sent with instructions to try and reach Abu 
Hamed, and bring back news, returned, 
saying that he had been stopped by a party 
of dervishes on the right bank about ten 
miles from our camp, and made prisoner, 
but had escaped. He had gathered from 
them that there were only a few of the 
enemy between us and Abu Hamed on this 
bank, but that the Monassir and Robatab, 
and a force from Berber with Suleiman 
Wad Gamr and other sheikhs, were hold- 
ing a rocky position on the other bank, at a 
place called Shamkiyeh, near Jebel Gergerib, 
and intended to oppose our advance there. 
They were not aware of our having crossed 
all our mounted troops to the right bank. 

We bivouacked in a strong semicircular 
position on the yellow sand, covering our 
boats and mounted troops on the sandbank 
below. At nine o'clock, being now within 


the distance, we fired a rocket from the 
nearest high hill, and another five minutes 
later — a preconcerted signal to inform Run- 
die's scouts, who should be on the watch, 
that we were within thirty miles of Abu 
Hamed. I walked round the position, and 
saw that perfect order reigning which came 
from the constant repetition and constant 
supervision of the nightly bivouac in readi- 
ness to meet instantaneous attack. Troops 
peacefully sleeping, tired with the hard 
day s work, beside their piled arms ; double 
sentries alert and motionless, watching with 
trained eyes every foot of the open space 
before the bivouac ; officers on watch vig- 
ilant ; perfect silence everywhere. Not once, 
in any camp I had been in, had there ever 
been a sign of a false alarm. This day's 
work had been the best ever performed by 
the troops. Two hundred and fifteen boats 
had been rowed by their strong arms 
through ten or eleven miles of the swift- 
est water possible to contend with. Our 

244 HUELLA. 

wounded were all doing well. No death 
had occurred among them since we left our 
camp at Dulka. The physical condition of 
the men was magnificent. We had com- 
pleted a month out from Hamdab — a month 
of almost unparalleled exertion, passed en- 
tirely in the open air. We had not sent 
back one sick man ; we had had but one 
death from disease ; and the total sick-list of 
the force was now only eighteen, a propor- 
tion of 6.4 per 1000 — a condition of health 
which I believe to be unprecedented among 
any troops in any campaign. The men 
were in high spirits; and there were two 
battalions, neither of which had yet been in 
action, longing for the chance of emulating 
those who had fought so gallantly at Kir- 
bekan. It was the first time I had seen 
the whole force in one bivouac ; and I lay 
down with a feeling of perfect confidence in 
their power to conquer any host of Arabs 
that the Mahdi could bring against them 
from the farthest corners of the Soudan. 


In four days, I said to myself, we shall be 
at Abu Hamed. We shall open up the 
Korosko desert-route, and our doing so 
will ring through the Soudan, and weak- 
en the knees of the followers of Mahomet 





24th Feb. I HAD issued ordcrs that to give the men 
more rest after so good a day's work, rd- 
veilld would not sound till half- past five ; 
and it was seven o'clock on the morning of 
the 24th before the first boat was in readi- 
ness to move. Some letters and Reuter's 
telegrams had arrived the night before by 
camel-post ; and an opportunity thus occur- 
ring of sending back to Korti, I reported in 
the most cheerful terms to Lord Wolseley. 
Seeking for something in my despatch-box, I 
came across the following cutting which I had 
taken at Haifa from the * Army and Navy 
Gazette' of the 13th September 1884 : — 
"The opinions which were expressed in this 


journal as soon as the orders were made known 
for the construction of those ridiculous row-boats 
for the expedition on the Nile have been cor- 
roborated by the assent and concurrence of every 
man who has any experience of the country and 
the river. A more wicked waste of money was 
never perpetrated, a more silly quackery was 
never devised, by any public department than that 
of which Lord Hartington and the Duke of Cam- 
bridge, representing the War Office and the Horse 
Guards, have really and truly been guilty in 
ordering that monstrous armada of boats, that 
unfloatable flotilla for the Nile ! Burn them for 
firewood ! Send them to Jericho, to ply on the 
Palestine canal of the future ! Make matches of 
them — do anything with them ! Put men in 
them, and try to send them up the Nile cataracts 
— never, we beg of you ! " 

Well, there they lay, 215 boats of the 
unfloatable flotilla, floating above all the 
worst cataracts of the Nile, within ten 
miles of the last of that series of rapids of 
which it was said in every map published 
before the expedition started, " Between 
Gerendid and Mograt cataracts (140 miles), 
the river is unnagivable at low Nile." Said, 

248 RECALL. 

and truly said hitherto. It had been left 
for British soldiers and British "ridiculous 
row - boats " to navigate the unnavigable, 
and to convey an army of 3000 men, with 
their stores and munitions of war, to within 
twenty-six miles of Abu Hamed. 

Our cavalry scouts and patrols had long 
been out. The leading boats of the Gor- 
dons had just pushed off. The main body 
of the cavalry had moved out of camp. 
Colonel Butler was riding past my bivouac, 
when a messenger arrived with a despatch 
from Korti. I opened it. It was mostly in 
cipher ; but some words in clear caught my 
eye, sent a cold shiver through me, and 
caused me at once to sound the halt 

This is what the message said when it 
had been deciphered : — 

"Korti, 20/'A February, 

"Buller evacuated Gubat. His main body 
went to Gakdul with all sick and wounded. 
He remains with about 1 500 men at Abu Klea 
The enemy have now begun to fire into his camp 
there, and have killed and wounded some of his 
men. He awaits camels to fall back on Gakdul, 


which I hope he will begin to do to-morrow, the 
2 1st instant; but owing to the weak state of his 
camels, all his men must go on foot. I have 
abandoned all hope of going to Berber before 
the autumn campaign begins. You will there- 
fore not go to Abu Hamed, but having burned 
and destroyed everything in the neighbourhood 
where Stewart was murdered, you will withdraw 
all your force to Abu Dom, near Merawi, bring- 
ing all the Mudir's troops with you. 

" Please express to the troops Lord Wolseley's 
high appreciation of their gallant conduct in 
action, and of the military spirit they have dis- 
played in overcoming the great difficulties pre- 
sented by the river. Having punished the 
Monassir people for Stewart's murder, it is not 
intended to-undertake any further military opera- 
tions until after the approaching hot season. 

" Further orders will be sent to you upon your 
reaching Abu Dom. Until you have occupied 
the Shukook pass, and made sure of every one 
through it, you had better keep this telegram 
entirely to yourself and Butler. Of course, if you 
are in the presence of the enemy when you 
receive this, you must defeat him before turning 
back. If you do not receive this before you 
have reached Abu Hamed, or are so near to it 
that It is merely a question of occupying it with- 
out opposition, you must halt there, and send 

250 RECALL. 

back information at once to me, when I will start 
the convoy from Korosko, which I do not other- 
wise mean to despatch. Of course it is impossible 
at this distance to give you positive orders, but 
Lord Wolseley has every confidence in your 
military discretion." 

But little time was needed for decision. 
The cup was snatched from our lips, but 
we must bear the disappointment bravely. 
The conditions in which I found myself 
gave no reasonable excuse for pressing on. 
And lightly as the message touched upon 
General Buller*s difficulties, there was suf- 
ficient in it to give cause for anxiety as to 
the result of his retreat. That lie had not 
retired one hour before it was necessary to 
do so was a certainty. If his troops should 
be surrounded by vast numbers of the late 
besiegers of Khartoum, who had already 
had three weeks within which to collect to 
oppose him, his situation might be full of 
peril. I knew Lord Wolseley could have 
but a handful of men at Korti, and the 
flower of his force was here in the River 


Column. I had but one course open to me 
— to make my way to Abu Dom with all 
possible speed. I showed the telegram to 
Colonel Butler. He entirely agreed with 
me, and I sent back the following reply : — 

" I received your telegram this morning, just as 
the troops were starting up river. I am, by the 
map, about twenty-six miles from Abu Hamed. 
I am not in the immediate presence of the enemy, 
nor have the patrols, who have been six miles 
beyond this, had any touch of the enemy. Nor 
do I anticipate meeting the enemy to-day, should 
I continue my advance. My latest information 
is that the enemy intend to fight at Abu Hamed, 
and I anticipate opposition if I advance upon it. 
There is a cataract between me and Abu Hamed, 
and if opposed, it might take some days before I 
could occupy the place. I am confident I could 
beat any force opposed to me, but I feel it my 
duty, in view of the facts contained in the first 
part of your telegram, to fall back immediately 
to Abu Dom, and I shall fall back to Hebbeh 
to-day. I shall return by the right bank." 

By returning along the right bank to 
Merawi, I should avoid all danger of op- 
position to the convoy in the Shukook pass. 

252 RECALL. 

where a few men could cause serious delay. 
It was evidently impossible for any serious 
opposition to be organised at very short 
notice on the right bank. 

I then issued the following orders to the 
troops : " The Brigadier-General announces 
to the troops that since they entered the 
boats this morning he has received a tele- 
gram from Lord Wolseley, stating that, 
after the Monassir tribe has been punished 
for Colonel Stewart's murder, it is not in- 
tended to undertake any further military 
operations until after the approaching hot 
season. The furthest limits of the Monassir 
country having been reached, and the pun- 
ishment for Colonel Stewart's murder hav- 
ing been, so far as possible, inflicted, the 
troops will now return through the Monassir 
country to Birti. The column will there- 
fore move upon Hebbeh to-day." Lord 
Wolseley's expression of appreciation was 
also published, and the following was add- 
ed : " The Brigadier- General has to remind 
the troops that the descent of this swift 


river will require even greater care than its 
ascent. All will depend upon the vigilance 
of the men in the bows, and the coolness 
and resource of the men steering." 

The following instructions for the in- 
formation of officers in charge of boats 
descending the Nile were drawn up by 
Lieut.-Colonel AUeyne : — 

" I. Owing to the swiftness of the stream, the 
boats will move over it at a rapid rate, conse- 
quently if a boat strikes a rock she will probably 
receive a severe injury. Accidents of this nature 
can be avoided, ^r^/, by the vigilance of the pole- 
man, who should sound frequently ; secondly y by 
not allowing boats to close up or crowd upon 
each other when descending a rapid. 

"2. As a rule, when descending a rapid the 
crew must row, otherwise the boat will not steer. 

"3. The last two (2) boats of each battalion 
should be nearly empty, so that in the event of 
a boat being severely injured in a rapid, they may 
be able to take in her cargo or return to her 
assistance. All other boats should have equal 
draught of water. 

"4. Coxwains must follow the lead given by 
boats with pilots in them. 

254 RECALL. 

" 5. After descending a rapid, the leading boats 
must halt until the rear boats join them. 

"In difficult rapids special arrangements will 
be made for taking each boat through with 
Canadian pilots." 

While halted, I was informed that a 
number of men on camels had been seen 
in the desert to the south-west Patrols 
were sent out, but the camels turned out 
to be only the product of a fevered ima- 
gination. However, some delay had been 
caused; and so the men were ordered to 
dine early, and then move down -stream. 
The mounted troops were ordered to patrol 
up-stream and cover the retirement by a for- 
ward reconnaissance, while the convoy with 
an escort returned towards Hebbeh. At 
noon the boats commenced to move down- 
stream, led by Colonel Denison command- 
ing the Canadian voyageurs. The column 
moved in reversed order from its progress 
up-sti'eam. The Staffords led, followed 
successively by the Black Watch and Corn- 
walls. The Gordons brought up the rear. 


The three leading battalions reached 
Hebbeh, and bivouacked on the high Nile 
island. The Gordons were halted with the 
convoy, camel battery, and part of the 
camel corps at Umsyal, a village three 
miles above Hebbeh, where there was plen- 
ty of good forage, with orders to destroy 
houses and sakyehs before leaving. The 
cavalry and the remainder of the camel 
corps having patrolled to within sight of 
the island of Mograt and seen no enemy, 
halted at El Kab, under Colonel Butler. 

The casualties amongst the boats were 
three damaged and repaired, and one total 
wreck. The horses and camels had suffered 
heavily from the heat, and the heavy sand 
fetlock-deep. Four camels and one horse 
died of exhaustion. I therefore ordered a 
halt for the next day, except that all the 
troops and convoy were to close up to 

The evening brought a messenger with 
despatches, all of earlier date than that re- 
ceived in the morning, and not containing 

256 RECALL. 

orders of recall; also messages from the 
Commandant at Abu Dom and the Vakeel, 
to say that neither for love nor money could 
they get any more messengers to come to 
us. It did not matter now ; we were going 
to them. But I have often since thought, 
that if that messenger had not been so 
pressing who reached us with the order of 
recall, we should have been in presence of 
the enemy ; we should have had another 
fight, and as we had twice as many troops 
present as at Kirbekan, probably an even 
more telling victory. I must then have 
occupied Abu Hamed ; and the fact of our 
doing so would, I believe, have materially 
improved our position in the Soudan. But 
fate willed it otherwise. 
25th Feb. On the 25th the troops were employed 
in completing the destruction of the houses 
and sakyeks of the village of Hebbeh, and 
on the island of El Kun, and the Gor- 
dons and mounted troops closed up on 
the column. 

A detachment of Hussars and camel 


corps was sent to a village about three 
miles down-stream, with orders to march 
off at the same hour as the boats in the 
morning. Supplies were equalised among 
the regiments, in proportion to their number 
of boats, and ordered to be so divided as to 
bring all boats to as nearly as possible the 
same draught of water. 

Orders were issued to the following effect : 
The Gordons were to move off at 7.45 a.m., 
followed at successive intervals of three- 
quarters of an hour by the Staffords, Black 
Watch, and Cornwalls — the last regiment 
furnishing the rear-guard. In every bat- 
talion except the rear battalion, the officer 
second in command was to bring up the 
rear of his battalioq, being held responsible 
for bringing on all boats of his own bat- 
talion, and all boats of details moving with 
his battalion or between it and the preced- 
ing battalion. He was not to move on 
himself until every one of these boats that 
could be brought on had preceded him. 

Each battalion, as previously ordered, was 


258 RECALL. 

to have two empty boats moving in rear of 
the others. 

The officer commanding the rear bat- 
talion was himself to bring up the rear of 
the whole column. He was to tell off four 
companies of his battalion as a rear-guard, 
and to move with this rear-guard in rear 
of all boats not abandoned, being held re- 
sponsible that no boat of the column was left 
behind unless necessarily abandoned, and 
that all abandoned boats were destroyed. 
On arrival in camp he was to report ver- 
bally to headquarters that every boat had 

Major Flood, 12th Hussars, was to cover 
the rear of the column with the mounted 
troops ; and the command of the rear-guard 
on shore and on the river was given to 
Colonel Butler, to whom the officer com- 
manding the rear battalion was to report, 
should he be unable to reach headquarters 

The number of repairing boats was in- 
creased to four, — one to move in rear of 


each battalion, and assist in repairing any 
boats that might be damaged, and could 
not be repaired regimentally. 

In reporting to Lord Wolseley in the 
evening, I said that, after consultation with 
Butler and Alleyne, I was of opinion it 
would take six or seven days to Birti, and 
six or seven from that place to Merawi. 
My place of crossing would depend on the 
information I might receive at Birti. 

On the morning of the 26th the troops 26th Feb. 
moved as ordered. By noon the advanced 
guard of mounted troops and the convoy, 
with two battalions of infantry, were con- 
centrated at Amarim, opposite Salamat, on 
the right bank, near the head of Sherri 
island. We on the bank rode along a flat 
wady at some distance from the bank the 
greater part of the way. On reaching 
Amarim, I at once rode on with Alleyne 
and Peel to inspect the channel between 
the right bank and Sherri island. We found 
it impracticable for boats from its shallow- 
ness, and the distance of the right bank 

26o RECALL. 

from the left bank x)f the river increased 
rapidly, it being evident that very large 
islands lay between. 

I was satisfied that it would be now 
practically impossible to combine with ac- 
curacy the movements of the mounted 
troops and of the boats. We were now 
about to commence the descent of the for- 
midable series of cataracts between Salamat 
and Ooli ; and I decided that my own 
proper place was with the boats, and that 
the command of the mounted troops and 
convoy should be confided to Colonel But- 
ler. Moving a cavalry advanced guard 
about three miles down-stream, and leaving 
the remainder at Amarim, where I halted 
the Cornwalls on their arrival for the pur- 
pose of completing the mounted troops up 
to six days* rations from the boats, I in- 
structed Colonel Butler to advance at 7 a.m. 
on the 27th, sending the Cornwalls by river 
at the same hour. He was to endeavour 
to keep touch of the troops in boats, but 
failing that, to make his way to Hush el 


Jeruf, opposite Birti, and await the boats 
there. Each party was to fire a rocket at 
8 P.M. each night to show the other its 

My brigade- major and aide-de-camp 
were to accompany me in the boats; all 
other staff officers, except the boat officers, 
to accompany the party on shore. Colvile 
was instructed, as soon as he thought it 
safe, to join the Vakeel at Birti, inform him 
I had received Lord Wolseley's orders to 
move to Abu Dom and take his troops with 
me, and request him to be ready to march 
immediately on my arrival. 

These orders- issued, I entered one of the 
boats of the headquarter escort Gordon 
Highlanders, and by sunset the three bat- 
talions were in bivouac on Sherri island. 
One boat of the Staffords struck a rock, 
and had to be abandoned as a total wreck. 
Arms, ammunition, and most of her stores 
were saved ; no lives were lost. 

A native who had -hailed us from the left 
bank opposite Hebbeh in the morning, was 

262 RECALL. 

brought on in the boats, and on being ques- 
tioned in the evening, told the following 
story. He was one of the soldiers of the 
Mudir, and had been taken prisoner at Am- 
bukol by the Shagiyeh, and sold to Haddai in 
the previous summer. When Haddai was 
killed, he was taken to Mograt — not to the 
island, but to the mainland on the left bank — 
where he worked for a man named Moham- 
med el Amin, a dervish. In the evening 
of the 25th, hearing the English were near, 
he escaped, and travelled by the left bank 
till he got opposite our boats in the morn- 
ing. He said that at Shamkiyeh there were 
assembled Suleiman Wad Gamr with the 
Monassir, and Wad Abu Hegel with the 
Robatab, and many men from Berber under 
Lekalik, all under the chief command of Abu 
Hegel ; that at this place the river passes 
through a narrow passage between rocks, 
and there is an old fort on each bank ; that 
they had fortified the rocks with stone- 
work, and occupied these old forts, and 
intended to dispute the advance of our 


boats. They had no artillery, and but few 
rifles, but they were numerous, — far more 
numerous than our force, — and had all 
either swords or spears. They had heard 
of Kirbekan, and knew that Moussa Wad 
Abu Hegel and many dervishes had been 
killed. They knew also that Khartoum 
had fallen, and Gordon had been killed. 
They told the people that Gordon was 
killed because he refused to become a Mus- 
sulman, and that the English, when they 
saw so many dervishes, would all throw 
their arms into the river from fear. They 
had heard, he said, of our returning; and 
when he left their camp the previous night, 
they were loading up provisions on camels, 
with the intention of following us. 

On our way down, we saw signs of a 
hasty retreat having been made from Sherri 
island. There were a few native boats, all 
of which we destroyed, as we had done all 
we could find coming up the river; and 
there were some rough rafts. The whaler 
abandoned by Captain Peel on the i6th 

264 RECALL. 

was found hauled up, and the stores that 
had been left with her were gone. Several 
natives were seen watching us from behind 
distant rocks, but we were in no way 




The boat officers had decided that it would 26th Feb. 
be impossible to pass down the left-bank 
channel by which we had ascended the 
Sherari rapid; and accordingly we had 
turned out of the left-bank channel, and our 
bivouac on Sherri island was on a central 
channel between Sherri and Sherari, at the 
head of a rapid. In the descent of the 
river a different nature of channel had to be 
sought from that best suited for ascent. In 
ascending, wherever the river became too 
swift for rowing, passages had to be sought 
through which the boats could be hauled or 
tracked, and these necessarily were never 
in mid-stream, but always close to the bank. 


either of the main shore or of an island. A 
very great rush of water was to be avoided ; 
and in consequence of these requirements, 
the passage by which the boats ascended a 
rapid was generally very shallow, and fre- 
quently only a narrow channel among rocks. 
To attempt to descend by such passages as 
these would be to court certain destruction 
for the boats ; and the main point was to 
find sufficient depth of water, no matter how 
swift or turbulent the stream. Consequently, 
as a rule, the descent was in mid-stream of 
that channel which, in their upward journey, 
the boat officer had noted as most likely to 
be full of water. 

I had originally intended to make the 
battalions in turn take the onerous duty of 
furnishing the rear-guard; but on consid- 
ering the question, I decided to make the 
advanced guard and rear-guard permanent, 
chiefly because any other arrangement in- 
volving the transposition of battalions in 
the order of the column might involve delay. 
Having selected Colonel Hammill to com- 


marid the advanced guard of Gordon High- 
landers and the naval boat, and Colonel 
Green the rear - guard of Black Watch, 
orders were issued for the descent of the 
rapids in the following order — Gordons, 
Cornwalls, Staffords, Black Watch, com- 
mencing at 6.45 A.M. 

Instructions were issued by Alley ne for 
the passing of the Sherri island rapid to 
the following effect : — 

** The two boats of each battalion that are 
first passed down the rapid will not put into 
shore, but remain in the stream at the foot 
of the rapid, one near each bank, ready to 
pull to any boat that may require assist- 
ance, — ^an officer and life-belts to be in each 
boat. The two boats of the leading bat- 
talion to be relieved by the two leading 
boats of the following battalion, and so on. 

** The first set of boats will be taken 
through the rapid by Canadian voyageurs ; 
and a company officer will descend in each 
boat, who, on his return, should be able to 
steer a boat of his company down the rapid. 


After the first set of boats have passed the 
rapid, a Canadian will be placed in every 
second, third, or fourth boat, as may be 
found necessary. At the hour named to 
start, adjutants of battalions will collect the 
voyageurs of battalions, and hand them 
over to Lieutenant-Colonel Denison. 

" When the boats have passed the 
rapid they will be anchored on the sand- 
bank on the right bank till that anchorage 
is full, when they will be anchored on the 
sandbank on the left bank. 

** The life-buoys in all boats to be always 
so placed that they can be thrown without 
delay to a man in the water." 
27th Feb. The rapid was run by all the boats of 
the column by 10.30 a.m., with the excep- 
tion of the rear-guard and the rear boats 
of' the Corn walls, who were delayed by a 
boat of the Cornwalls which, in descending 
from Amarim, was wrecked above our 
Sherri island bivouac on a sunken rock. 
Her crew, arms (except one rifle), ammu- 
nition, and stores were saved. The boat 


was got to shore, but so badly damaged 
that she had to be broken up and burnt; 
and it was 1.30 p.m. before the whole of 
the boats were through and concentrated 
about a mile and a half above the bivouac 
of Shoar on the upward journey. The 
column then moved forward, well closed 
up, to the head of Uss rapid. Here it 
was decided not to attempt the left -bank 
channel, but to pass round the western side 
of Little Uss island. A sharp short rapid, 
with a nasty curve, had to be run at the 
turning from the left-bank channel, into the 
passage between the two islands ; and the 
naval boat, which was one of the first to 
attempt the passage, struck heavily on a 
rock in mid-stream, in the swiftest water, 
and remained there. Other boats were 
with difficulty taken to her assistance by 
the voyageurs, her stores were unloaded, 
and she was got off; but in getting her off, 
a boat of the Gordon Highlanders got on 
the rock, and in freeing her, another boat 
of the Gordons was so damaged that she 


filled and sank. This accident to the naval 
boat caused considerable delay, as, while 
the other boats were engaged in rescuing 
her, and the boats damaged in going to her 
help, the passage of the rapid was blocked. 
Thus by nightfall only 64 boats, Gordons 
and part of Cornwalls, were through the 
rapid; and the force bivouacked in two 
camps above and below the rapid on Uss 
island, about 1000 yards apart. A few 
natives with spears were seen, but they all 
kept out of our way. We fired our signal 
rocket at 8 p.m., and were answered by 
Colonel Butler from the mainland, about 
two miles due west. 

Our total wrecks this day were three, — 
one of the Gordons and one of the Corn- 
walls, already described, and another of the 
Cornwalls, which struck on the rocks and 
filled almost immediately after leaving the 
Sherri island bivouac. The repairing parties 
worked till late in the night, repairing other 
boats more or less seriously damaged. 

The following day would take us into 


the Shukook, where, if anywhere, the 
enemy would attempt to interfere with our 
passage. There were many places where 
the river passed between rocky cliffs, from 
which a few riflemen could do us serious 
damage. I did not for a moment antici- 
pate that any large force would be gathered 
there; but I did think it highly probable 
that the enemy would post a small body 
of riflemen to oppose our passage, and that 
we might have to land a force to turn them 
out. Orders were therefore issued that two 
men would be in the bows of each boat 
with their rifles loaded and in their hands, 
and with accoutrements and ammunition 
ready. In the event of any shots being 
fired at the boats, these men were at once 
to return the fire. The column was not 
to be halted for mere stray shots ; but 
should any serious amount of firing take 
place, the nearest boats were at once to 
pull to shore and land their men, the 
landing being covered by the armed bow- 
men. Wooden plugs were made and issued 


out to each boat to stop bullet- holes if 
asth Feb. Previous to the advance on the morning 
of 28th, I saw commanding officers, and 
explained to them my wishes in case of our 
being fired upon, and of a landing being 
necessary. We then moved off, halting at 
the foot of the Uss rapid till two battalions 
and a half were concentrated there, and 
then recommencing the advance. My en- 
deavour was throughout this descent of the 
river, as in the ascent, so to regulate the 
movement as to obtain the greatest possi- 
ble rapidity consistent with power of con- 
centration to meet any sudden attack. 
The advance through the Shukook was 
unmolested. As my boat followed the last 
company of the Gordons, I was in momen- 
tary expectation of hearing the first shots 
fired. It would have been so easy to 
shoot some of our men in the boats from 
the rocky cliffs, and to choose places for 
the riflemen whence they could easily 
escape before we could reach them with 


our infantry. But not a shot was fired, 
and not a human being was seen; and it 
was with no small satisfaction that we 
emerged from the rocky defile, and, having 
passed our old camp at Wady el Argu, ran 
the very nasty rapid intervening between 
it and the high Nile island camp at Kir- 
bekan, which we reached at 11.30 a.m. 
This rapid required that every boat should 
be taken down by voyageurs, and occa- 
sioned considerable delay. At night the 
Gordon Highlanders and my headquar- 
ters reached Dulka island, and bivouacked 
there, immediately opposite the old camp 
whence we had marched for our fight, and 
the remaining troops bivouacked between 
the old Kirbekan camp and Wady el Argu. 
Our rocket was answered by Colonel Butler 
about six miles W.N.W. He was encamped 
on the north bank, opposite Birti island. 
We had got through the day without the 
loss of a boat. 

While halted in the afternoon at the high 

Nile island camp of Kirbekan, the Gordons 



had taken prisoner an old man, dressed in 
the Mahdi^s patchwork uniform. He gave 
no information, and next day I handed him 
over to the Vakeel, who pronounced him 
old and half-witted, and let him go. A 
messenger from Birti brought me word that 
the Vakeel had gone to El Koua with some 
of the troops, but was expected back in the 
morning. Achmet Effendi, the commander 
of the troops, was deeply concerned at our 
return, and begged me to let him know its 
xst March. On the ist March, as soon as the troops 
had closed up to Dulka island, we con- 
tinued our advance. We successfully passed 
the troublesome rapid above Castle Camp, 
and the swift water above Birti. I took 
Colonel Butler on board off Birti island, 
and dropped down to his camp, where I 
was joined by Colonel Colvile, who had 
seen the Vakeel, and arranged for his start- 
ing as soon as ordered to do so. The 
boats of the column pressed on to their 
rendezvous on the right bank, opposite the 


site of our old bivouac, where the Vakeel 
was now in camp. 

The Vakeel, accompanied by Achmet 
Effendi, now crossed over to see me ; and 
it was arranged with him that he should 
start on the following morning. There was 
a short desert -route from Birti to Jebel 
Kulgeili, but he preferred marching near 
the river, and keeping touch of our boats. 
Colvile now again joined the Vakeels 
camp, with instructions to await our arrival 
at Hamdab. I sent off a messenger re- 
porting arrival to Lord Wolseley. 

Having rationed the mounted troops up 
to six days, the boats again moved on, and 
entered the Rahami cataract, where we 
were again obliged to place a voyageur in 
every boat. Each time that the nature of 
the rapids required this caused delay — as 
after taking a boat down, each voyageur 
had to walk back to the head of the rapid 
to bring down another boat. We had only 
sixty-seven voyageurs, and more than two 
hundred boats ; so when only one voyageur 


was required for a boat, each had to make 
from three to four trips; when two were 
required, each had to make seven trips. 

Headquarters, Corn walls, and StafFords 
bivouacked on the left bank, about the 
middle of the cataract; the Gordons on 
a sandy island opposite; and the Black 
Watch, who had not yet entered the cata- 
ract, about three-quarters of a mile above. 

The men were now becoming as skilful 
in the descent as they had become in the 
ascent of the rapids. An excellent system 
of leaving boats at important places to 
point out the route to be taken had been 
perfected by Colonel Alleyne. Boats 
followed at regular intervals keeping to 
the track of the pilot-boat, and the words 
" slower " or " faster " were passed down 
the line with rapidity. But we could not 
avoid accidents : two boats of the Staffords 
had to be abandoned to-day, and two were 
badly damaged, but repaired. Still, we had 
lost no lives, and but few stores. 
2d March. On the 2d the advance was resumed. 


Rahami cataract was successfully negotiated ; 
and we entered the swift water at the top 
of Umhaboah cataract. Near our old camp 
at Warag we were halted, while Colonels 
Denison and Alleyne examined the river 
in front, Alleyne returned presently and 
told me there was a choice between two 
passages. That to the right was straight, 
but there was a clear fall of nearly three feet 
at one place. That to the left had no 
actual waterfall, but it was a rushing in- 
clined plane, its worst feature being that 
the channel was narrow, and turned at 
right angles in the very worst part of the 
shoot. They had elected for this latter 
passage; but considered no one should 
descend it except the necessary two voy- 
ageurs (bowman and steerer), and the six 
men required to row each boat. All others 
were ordered to walk, and all arms were 

The voyageurs walked to see the shoot, 
before attempting to pass it. They said it 
was bad, but practicable. To me it seemed 



as bad as bad could be. The channel 
to the left, and then sharply at right 
to the right. Just at this turn, two 
rocks stood out in mid -stream. 1 
necessary to pass between them. Th 
error in steering would be fatal. To 
the turn too soon would bring the bi 
to the right-hand rock ; to wait toi 
would sweep her on to the left-hanc 
Sitting under the shadow of a great i 
watched this triumph of skill over a di; 
that to any one unaccustomed to sucl 
would have seemed insuperable. Boi 
boat came down at lightning - spec 
men giving way with might and n 
give steering power ; the bowmen st 
cool and collected watching the wati 
only using the oar should the ste< 
seem to need help ; the steersmen bi 
round the boat with marvellous juc 
at the right moment. Now and tl 
error of half a second brought a boa 
the edge of the left-hand rock, and si 
and fell like a horse jumping a fence 

1/ -V , 


in the day*s work only one boat of the 
Gordons and one of the Staffords were 
wrecked. Half the force bivouacked below 
this shoot at our old camp of Mishami 
ridge ; half above it at Warag. 

The Mudir s troops bivouacked at Kab 
el Abd, and we established heliographic 
communication with Colonel Butler at 
Shebabit. We had entered again into the 
land of the friendly Shagiyehs, and the first 
sakyeh we had seen at work since leaving 
Hamdab groaned out its creaking welcome 
to us opposite Gamra. 

The two rear battalions were ordered 
to close up on the following morning, the 
advance of the leading battalions to be 
postponed till this was complete. 

Early in the morning the passage of this 3d March, 
rapid was continued. As one boat was 
coming through, her rudder broke ; she 
struck a rock, and the voyageur in the bow 
was thrown by the shock into the water. 
He, fortunately, clung to the rock, and got 
upon it. A boat was lowered down to him 


by a rope from the shore by other voyageurs, 
and he was brought safely to land. This, 
and the length of time required for the 
return-trips of the voyageurs, made it half- 
past eleven before all boats were through, 
and in readiness to advance. 

Passing through Kab el Abd, we looked 
in vain for the cataract that was ** like the 
big gate of Semneh " as we went up. It had 
entirely disappeared. This was only one of 
the many striking changes in the nature and 
appearance of the river between our ascent 
and descent. The Nile evidently entirely 
changes its character at each place with its 
change of level, and no map of the river 
drawn at any one season can be even 
approximately correct for another season. 
We made good progress to the head of the 
fourth cataract. Here again it was decided 
not to attempt the channel to the west of 
Suffi island by which the boats had ascend- 
ed, but to descend the main channel on 
the left bank. It was a long straight run 
of a mile and a half or more (distances 


are hard to measure when flying like an 
express train) of water broken and rough, 
studded with rocks both seen and unseen — 
a dangerous rapid to the unskilled or care- 
less, yet safe to the trained eye and skilled 

As my boat shot down we passed the 
adjutant of the Gordons, with his boat 
stuck fast in the very centre of the boiling 
rapid — a useful beacon to the following 
boats. His was not the only boat that 
struck. Four others of the same battalion 
were on rocks. Three were repaired, but 
two of the five sank and were abandoned. 
The quartermaster was thrown into the 
water, and lost all his kit. The adjutant 
had a narrow escape for his life. Thrown 
into the water, as his boat sank, his head 
struck a sharp rock, and he was severely 
cut. The arms, ammunition, and men's 
bedding in his boat, and all lives, were 
saved. The Black Watch, also, had to 
abandon a boat that struck on a rock 
near Kabour. But by sunset, thanks to 


the admirable exertions of the men, and 
the skill of the voyageurs, all wrecked 
crews were brought to shore. All the 
Gordons and eleven boats of the Comwalls 
bivouacked below the rapid, and the re- 
mainder of the troops above. 

The Mudir's troops encamped half a mile 
north of us on the left bank ; Colonel But- 
ler's party on the right bank, opposite the 
end of Ooli island. 

Orders were issued for the troops to close 
up below the cataract before advancing in 
the morning; and to Colonel Butler to march 
to Abu Dom, select a place and make pre- 
parations for his crosssing. 
4th March. On the 4th the remaining boats passed 
through the fourth cataract with a loss of 
three boats wrecked, and, alas 1 with the 
first fatal accident in all our downward jour- 
ney. The course to be steered through 
the cataract was a very tortuous one. The 
boats had to go from mid-stream over close 
to the right bank, and there pass between 


a rock and the shore, turning again to the 
left into mid-stream. Officers and a voya- 
geur were stationed with their boats on the 
rocky islands to show the direction to be 
taken, but unfortunately a boat stuck across 
the stream, in the narrow channel near the 
right bank, blocking it. Instead of the re- 
maining boats being turned in to the bank 
to wait till the channel was clear, they were 
by some error directed off into mid-stream, 
and the greater part of the boats of three 
battalions shot over a fall of about three 
feet, like a Thames weir in flood. That only 
one accident occurred is marvellous. One 
boat having safely shot the weir, through 
some error in steering struck a rock vio- 
lently, and upset. Unfortunately she had 
in her two wounded men, both of whom, 
with a sergeant, were drowned. One of the 
wounded men, private Barber, had been spe- 
cially distinguished by his gallant conduct at 
Kirbekan. A wounded private of the Black 
Watch also died on board his boat in pass- 


ing through the cataract. His leg had been 
amputated above the knee, and it was an 
almost hopeless case. 

It was nearly noon before the running of 
this rapid was complete, and we then moved 
down the river. A halt was made at Jebel 
Kulgeili, to concentrate two battalions, and 
the advance was continued to Hamdab, 
where three and a half battalions concen- 
trated in bivouac. The rear-guard half- 
battalion Black Watch, with two damaged 
boats of the Staffords and six of the Corn- 
walls, were still in rear. 

The Mudir s troops bivouacked at Dugi- 
yet ; the mounted troops at Kasingar, oppo- 
site Belal. 

We had descended in nine days what it 
had taken us thirty-one days to ascend. 





At Hamdab I received a telegram from 
Korti. General BuUer's name at the head 
was sufficient to tell us the retreat had been 
safely accomplished from Abu Klea. The 
telegram directed me to leave Colonel But- 
ler in command at Abu Dom with the Black 
Watch, a troop of Hussars, the Egyptian 
camel corps, two guns of the Egyptian 
battery, a detachment of Engineers, and a 
hundred transport camels, with all the ra- 
tions I could spare, and to bring the rest 
of the column to Korti. 

On the morning of the 5th we moved sth March. 
on to Abu Dom. The rapid water between 


Hamdab and Belal offered no difficulty of 
importance, and by 12.30 p.m. two battalions 
had closed up, and the mounted troops had 
reached the right bank at Merawi. At 
1.40 P.M., after the men's dinners, the boats 
of the Gordons and Staffbrds commenced 
to take across the animals and their loads, 
and by sunset the greater number of them 
were across, and all the infantry in bivouac 

The Mudir's troops I had halted at 
Duaim, three miles short of Abu Dom. 
Orders arrived for them to be sent to hold 
Hamdab, for which place, on my recom- 
mendation, Dugiyet was afterwards substi- 
tuted, as being nearer the supplies of Belal, 
and at the entrance of the Berber road. 
6th March. The early part of the 6th was occupied 
in ferrying across the remainder of the ani- 
mals, and in the transfer of supplies from 
the regiments going to Korti to the com- 
missariat officer detailed to remain at Abu 
Dom. A committee consisting of Colonel 
Butler, Colonel Alleyne, Lieutenant-Colonel 


Colvile, Major Slade, Captain Courtenay, 
and Lieutenant Colborne, met and went 
over the survey together, deciding upon the 
names of the various cataracts, islands, vil- 
lages, hills, and districts through which we 
had passed. This was no easy task, as the 
same places seem to be known by many dif- 
ferent names ; and when the sound of a 
name was agreed upon, it was no easy mat- 
ter to spell the word. Major Colborne*s 
map, attached to this volume, represents the 
fruit of their joint revision. 

A violent dust-storm blew throughout the 
day, but dropped towards evening ; and at 
five o'clock I held a review of the River 
Column — the first and the last time it was 
ever inspected on parade. The horses, 
though their feet were tender from want of 
shoes, did not show any other signs of un- 
fitness. The camels of the camel corps 
and battery seemed none the worse for 
their crossing. Two thousand of the finest 
fighting men that it ever was any man s lot 
to command were inspected in line, marched 


past, re-formed in line of quarter-columns, 
and advanced in review order. Having 
said a few farewell words to commanding 
officers, I bade the column, as ** The River 
Column," good-bye. 

The voyageurs were drawn up at the 
flag-staff under command of Lieutenant- 
Colonel Denison. Out of the contingent 
of 377 men that left Canada, ten had died, 
six of whom had been drowned in the Nile. 
Their six months' engagement expiring on 
9th March, eighty-nine of them had re- 
engaged, and sixty-seven of those had 
ascended the Nile with the River Column. 
Without them, the ascent of the river, if 
not impossible, would have been far slower, 
and attended with far greater loss of life. 
Without them, the descent of the river 
would have been impossible. Officers and 
men, they had worked with unceasing energy 
and a complete disregard of danger. 

The Vakeel had been met at Duaim by 
an order for him at once to hand over his 


duties to Izzedin Bey, and to consider him- 

self dismissed. Another commander was 

also being sent up to replace Achmet 

Effendi. Both these acts appear to have 

been the Mudir's own, without reference to 

Lord Wolseley. The first, the dismissal of 

the Vakeel, was beyond his powers ; and 

the Vakeel was reinstated later, and sent 

to replace the Mudir himself at Dongola. 

As soon as he saw that the English were 

really strong and in earnest, he had done 

his best to help us. I had no fault to find 

with him, or with Achmet Effendi, and I 

publicly thanked them on the parade, at 

which they both were present. 

Achmet Effendi, however, expressed 

strong objections to being sent to garrison 

Dugiyet. The fact was, that information 

had arrived that the enemy reoccupied 

Birti the day after the Mudir s troops left 

it. Rumour exaggerated their numbers ; 

and a force of 6000 men was said to be 

there under Lekalik, Suleiman Wad Gamr, 




and Abu Hegel, while an army under Mo- 
hammed El Kheir was said to be ad- 
vancing from Berber by the river to join 
7th to 8th On the morning of the 7th, having said 
good-bye to Butler and his troops, I started 
with the boats, and early on the 8th handed 
over my command at Korti. The River 
Column then ceased to exist. 

In justice to those on whom the great 
burden of the work fell, I will end this nar- 
rative with the last paragraph of my final 
report to Lord Wolseley : ** I cannot,*' I 
said, "close this report without dwelling 
upon the splendid behaviour of the regi- 
mental officers, non-commissioned officers, 
and men of this column. The life of the 
men has been one of incessant toil from the 
first to the last day of the expedition. In 
ragged clothing, scarred and blistered by 
the sun and rough work, they have worked 
with constant cheerfulness and unceasing 


energy. Their discipline has been beyond 
reproach ; and I do not hesitate to say that 
no finer, more gallant, or more trustworthy 
body of men ever served the Queen than 
those I have had the honour to command 
in the' River Column." 



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